Thursday, October 7, 2004

David Hoadley is a local storm chaser, and he knows clouds. He has seen nearly every kind, from wispy, low-lying mists to towering, dark thunderheads that spawn some of nature’s most spectacular — and destructive — storms, and has photographed some of them.

The U.S. Postal Service has taken notice of his hobby and included one of his photos in its new series of stamps, called “Cloudscapes.” Mr. Hoadley’s contribution shows what is technically known as cumulonimbus mammatus — a collection of puffy white balls hanging over a Kansas landscape at sunset.

“It took no great skill or craft on my part,” says Mr. Hoadley, 66, a retired official for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water who has been chasing storms for 48 years. “What you see is a natural wonder.”

The Falls Church resident isn’t the only local sky gazer to see his work in the Cloudscapes series. Mike Mogil, who lives in Rockville, has contributed a photo of a row of long, thin clouds known as altocumulus undulatus among meteorologists and serious sky watchers.

“I came out of the house one day, looked up, saw the clouds, got my wife, she took one look at it and said, ‘Get your camera.’ I did, and we’ve loved that picture ever since,” says the retired 59-year-old meteorologist, who took the picture outside his Rockville home in the mid-1990s.

The U.S. Postal Service released the Cloudscapes stamps on Tuesday to kick off the National Stamp Collecting Month. Photographs for the series were selected by meteorologists, and each pane of stamps includes explanations of the cloud formations.

Tomorrow, the Falls Church Post Office at 301 W. Broad St. will hold a Cloudscapes autograph session featuring Mr. Hoadley from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Annette Mank, customer-relations coordinator for the Postal Service’s Northern Virginia district, said the event was organized to make local residents aware of their community’s very own storm chaser.

“We’re awfully proud that he’s a Falls Church resident, so we wanted to celebrate that at our Falls Church post office,” Ms. Mank said.

Mr. Hoadley got his first taste of storm chasing in Bismarck, N.D., in 1956, when his father pulled him out of a movie theater to give him a glimpse of a violent thunderstorm over the northern plains.

He has no formal training in meteorology, but his travels have taken him through 22 states, where he has recorded dozens of hours of videotape and produced 1,500 slides of cloud formations, cyclones and tornadoes.

“It’s a feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself,” Mr. Hoadley says. “It’s magnificent.”

Mr. Mogil, as a former meteorologist and current weather educator, says he is excited that his photo will serve as an educational artwork.

“I’m on cloud nine,” Mr. Mogil said. “The fact that I’ve got my cloud picture out there and I’m hearing people go, ‘Wow, these clouds are beautiful,’ that gives me the flavor that I’ve helped to create some art.”

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