Frigid delivery

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Whether it’s a sunny day with temperatures in the 80s or a chilly wintery day with temperatures nearing or below zero, many letter carriers in Albert Lea are determined to deliver the mail to the citizens of the area.

On Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service forecast an afternoon of 4 degrees with wind chill values between 6 and 11 below.

The frigid temps didn’t seem to slow down carrier Paul Nelson, whose route takes him to downtown businesses, up Bridge Avenue and then to residences off of South Broadway Avenue.

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Dressed in an insulated T-shirt, a regular shirt, a sweatshirt, an insulated coat, wool socks, a scarf and insulated gloves, the Austin resident said the U.S. Postal Service provides carriers with a clothing allowance to get outfits to fit the circumstances.

The clothing has to be purchased at designated stores, he said.

Though he still does admit he gets cold, it’s not nearly as bad as it would be without the proper gear, especially since he has an all-walking route, he said.

In addition to all-walking routes, there are routes that have a mix of walking and driving, and some routes that are all driving.

Nelson has been a letter carrier in Albert Lea for five years and in Austin for 1 1/2 years.

He estimated the coldest weather he’s delivered mail in was at 10 below with negative wind chill values a few years ago. He said the weather this year hasn’t been too bad.

When he sees people sitting inside their warm homes, he said, he sometimes regret being a mailman. But mostly he just enjoys it. He is a retired teacher.

As he delivered mail on Tuesday on Newton Avenue and Broadway Avenue, he explained some of the things he encounters while out on his route.

In the winter, of course, sometimes there are shoveled sidewalks; sometimes there are not. In the cases where sidewalks are not shoveled, he places a letter in the mailboxes of the homeowner, explaining that the sidewalks need to be cleared or mail won’t be able to be delivered.

Sometimes he also has to be on the lookout for dog droppings, even on sidewalks in the winter.

In the winter in neighborhoods where there are not sidewalks, he has to walk in the streets, which can sometimes take longer and be less safe.

Nelson is one of several carriers employed by the Albert Lea branch of the U.S. Postal Service. The post office has 16 Albert Lea routes and five rural routes.

Albert Lea Postmaster Dixie Bentley said the letter carriers use their own judgment when it comes to whether to go out in inclement weather.

During the snowstorm on Wednesday last week, Bentley said, there were only 10 carriers who were able to deliver.

Her daily goal is to have everyone off the street by 5 p.m.

The holiday season at the post office

Bentley said the post office, 141 S. Newton Ave., saw one of its busiest days of the season on Monday, with three clerks on duty throughout the day.

She described Monday as what postal workers call Black Monday, comparing it to one of the busiest shopping days of the year on the day after Thanksgiving.

She anticipated that Christmas packages being sent out would taper off Thursday and Friday and then would pick up the first part of the week next week.

All outgoing mail is taken to Mankato where it is processed, Bentley said. The Mankato facility has the processing equipment for sorting letters, instead of having to do it by hand. All incoming mail is also brought by truck from Mankato.

Nelson said the number of holiday packages on his route have varied throughout the week — on Tuesday he had eight packages to deliver, but Monday he had 30.

Nelson and Bentley both asked for people to help the letter carriers by keeping their walkways shoveled.

“It helps the carriers immensely,” Bentley said.

For information about the local post office, call 373-3167.