By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The cold and snowy weather may mean children get a day off from school and some businesses close down for the day, but postal workers do not get a break from the lowest temperatures Ottumwa has seen in some time.
“The majority of them are out there for six, seven or eight hours,” said Marylou LaRose of the Ottumwa Post Office.
The mail carriers in Ottumwa stayed true to the United States Postal Service unofficial creed of “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” on Monday during the intense cold that swept across the Midwest.
All over the city, men and women braved the low temperatures, which were at a teeth-chattering -10 degrees without the wind chill Monday morning, to deliver the daily mail. LaRose said that there were more than 30 carriers making their rounds both in the city and rural areas that they cover, all bundled to the max to try to fend off the cold.
“We tell them to be safe and be aware of the signs of hypothermia,” LaRose said. “If you start feeling wobbly, then you are probably pretty cold.”
Marylou’s husband, Jeff LaRose, was one of the carriers who had to be out in the cold on Monday. According to him, the hardest part of delivering mail when the temperatures drop is keeping your hands warm.
“[The hardest part] is trying to keep warm and trying to move your hands,” he said. “You have to be able to handle the mail, so you can’t bundle your hands as much as the rest of your body.”
In order to make sure each piece of mail is going to the right person, the mailpersons have to be sure they can handle the mail correctly. That means they can’t simply wear layer upon layer on their hands, since they have to be able to move their fingers to sort through the mail. That’s when keeping their hands warm gets tough and when hypothermia can set in if they aren’t careful.
To try and make life easier for the mail carriers when the weather turns bad, there are a lot of things homeowners can do. Marylou said clearing out the proper pathways to and around wherever mail is dropped off can help make walkways safe and easily traversable, and “hopefully your customers know to put salt out,” she said.
Outgoing mail should garner extra attention when the weather is bad, too. It should be clearly visible and secured tightly to the mailbox so it does not get taken away by Mother Nature before a mailperson can get there.
“In this wind, it will get taken away, so make sure it is secure with a clothes pin or something,” she said.
Even though the cold weather can mean a break from school or work for some, others, like mail carriers, have to brave the frigid temperatures and keep working. No matter if there is snow on the ground or if the high for the day is in the negatives, they will be out there delivering mail and freezing to the bone. So, help make their job easier by keeping the area around your mailbox cleared and throw some salt down to keep pathways safe.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh