Chittenden Reservoir captured on postage stamp

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(Host) Want a scenic photograph of the Chittenden Reservoir? Thanks to the U.S. postal service, it’ll only cost you 37 cents. As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, a photo of the reservoir is part of a new limited edition series of postage stamps featuring clouds.

(Keck) You have to look closely but sandwiched between the stamps depicting cumulus humilis and stratocumulos undulates – try and say those three times fast – is the stamp depicting stratus opacus clouds. As clouds go, stratus opacus are not the most dramatic or beautiful, picture thick, gray fog. So, to make a more appealing stamp, the post office chose a gorgeous backdrop – Vermont’s very own Chittenden Reservoir in all its autumn glory.

Chittenden postmaster John Bilunas says initially he only ordered a small number of the stamps.

(Bilunas) “Then a day after I put in my order I got an e-mail from a friend saying, do you know one of those stamps is Chittenden, Vermont? I said, really! So I put in an emergency order for 125 sheets and they’ve just been flying out the door. People love’ em, they like the idea of we’re on the map.”

(Keck) Stanley David Gedzelman, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the City College of New York, took the photograph on October 3, 1987, just before a snow storm dumped 21 inches of snow on the mountains. His photo and 14 others provide vivid examples of the main cloud types.

Mark Saunders is a spokesman for the postal service:

(Saunders) “One photo that’s really compelling to me is the cumulonimbus mammatus. It’s a bright orange stamp and if you look at it closely, it looks like huge bubbles of clouds coming out of the sky.”

(Keck) Veteran storm chaser David Hobley took the photo in Kansas. According to Saunders, Hobley was driving through farmland following a developing storm when he got stuck in a ditch.

(Saunders) “The farmer had to pull him out with a tractor and he took pictures as the sun was going down and he went back to his hotel disgusted, thinking he missed it. And sure enough the news the next day said nearly 16 tornados had passed through that area. David did not know the shot he had until he had the film developed. And when you look at that picture it’s just really awesome, outstanding.”

(Keck) Perhaps the most dramatic stamp depicts a white columned tornado spiraling through a North Dakota farm field.

The cloudscape series was created to help promote atmospheric sciences and information about the clouds is included on the back of each stamp. Though the post office printed 125 million of this series, Saunders says they’ll likely go fast. You can check out the stamps without spending the 37 cents by clicking on the postal service Web site,

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Chittenden.

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