USPS Stops Accepting Standard Mail Addressed to Hurricane-Ravaged Area

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The devastation from Hurricane Katrina has forced the U.S. Postal Service to stop accepting any Standard mail or Periodicals mail from any source addressed for delivery to parts of New Orleans and parts of southern Mississippi.


Effective immediately, the postal service is not accepting any 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.


The postal service said it is still working on a plan to address the handling of Standard and Periodicals mail already in the mailstream to those areas.


"Our focus now is not on Standard mail. It's money and medicine," USPS spokesman Bob Anderson said yesterday. "Some [postal facilities] were destroyed. Others were isolated. They are in mandatory evacuation areas. We have damaged facilities and, of course, we have facilities that have no power or phone lines so our mail sorting equipment doesn't work."


About 700 ZIP codes are affected in New Orleans and the Mississippi towns of Gulfport, Mobile and Meridian.


Because of the extensive damage, the USPS is focusing on First-Class mail, Priority Mail, Express Mail and Parcel Post. Anderson said postal officials have already contacted several major mailers about changing their mail plans. The postal service is using nearby distribution centers in Houston, Dallas and Baton Rouge 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.


Another concern for the USPS is that Social Security checks are due to be delivered today.


Anderson said the postal service is still determining how many USPS employees have been affected by the hurricane and what the damage is to postal facilities in the region.


Service updates are at www.usps.com.


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