USPS Struggles Delivering to Disaster Area
"The key message we're trying to get out is that we will make sure the mail follows displaced people if they fill out a change of address," USPS spokesman Gerry McKiernan said. "We've set up what you might call a New Orleans/Mississippi post office in the Astrodome in Houston. I'm told they are using the ticket windows, which is how we normally operate anyhow."
People in other areas also can file change-of-address forms online or at any post office, he said. Still, it is unclear how long it might take for Standard and Periodicals mail to return to the affected areas. The postal service is accepting no Standard or Periodicals mail -- from any source -- addressed for delivery within the following three-digit ZIP code ranges:
· Louisiana: 700 and 701.
· Mississippi: 369, 393, 394, 395 and 396.
As for direct mail, McKiernan said there are two key points.
"One, we don't want our customers paying for mail that we can't deliver, and that's why we requested that the direct mail community hold off giving us mail for certain ZIP codes," he said. "Two, at this point we don't want to overburden our system. We don't want carriers to have to handle non-urgent mail in those areas right now."
In addition, the USPS said Express Mail sold Aug. 26-29 to these ZIP
Codes are ineligible for refunds because of "an act of God."
The USPS has no estimates on how much undeliverable mail it has on hand or how much mail was destroyed in the hurricane.
Because of the extensive damage, the postal service is focusing on First-Class, Priority Mail, Express Mail and Parcel Post. USPS spokesman Bob Anderson said postal officials have contacted several major mailers about changing their plans. The postal service is using nearby distribution centers in Houston, Dallas and Baton Rouge, LA, to process mail.
"We're working with federal, state and local officials on the scene and trying to get estimates on when service might be restored, but we also have our mobile units," he said. "We have generators, mobile post offices, retail units. We're waiting to coordinate with them on locations where they want us to set up to best serve our customers. We need to set up where it will do the most good, but until they get the forced-evacuation people to the centers that they want, we can't really serve people until we know where they're going to be."
The rest of the country is business as usual in terms of mail, even in many of the areas surrounding the devastation from the storm.
"We have about 75 percent coverage in the New Orleans area except for the city proper, which has no service," McKiernan said. "We are doing fairly well in Mississippi. We are delivering everything in Jackson and north of Jackson. South of Jackson, it's somewhat difficult."
Fuel shortages in some parts of Mississippi are another problem.
"Our issue is supply right now," he said. "In some spotty areas we're having difficulty, but it's not an overarching problem for us."
Other issues for the USPS remain delivery of Social Security checks and medicines as well as locating employees.
"It's not a lot that are missing, but there are still some out there," McKiernan said. "It's very interesting how it's happening. They are showing up in various places. I heard [Thursday], for example, that somebody from New Orleans wandered into one of our facilities in Tampa, FL, and said, 'Put me to work,' so that's good."
Over the weekend, sale of Express Mail was restored to Mobile ZIP Code ranges 365 and 366 but was still suspended in the following ZIP Codes: 369 and 393 Meridian, MS; 394, Hattiesburg, MS; 395, Gulfport, MS; 396, McComb, MS; 700-701, New Orleans; 703, Houma, LA; and 704,
Service updates are at www.usps.com.
Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters