By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The inscription on New York City’s U.S. Postal Service headquarters reads: “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

“It applies, there’s just a little bit of wiggle room there,” said Pete Nowacki, USPS spokesman when asked about the people who haven’t had their mail delivered this winter.

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Frustrated WCCO-TV viewer Denise from Lakeville emailed wanting to know: What are the weather rules when it comes to mail delivery? She and her husband didn’t get their mail this past Friday, Saturday or Monday. When her husband went to the post office to pick it up, he found a long line of people waiting for mail.

Nowacki says there are no hard, fast rules for carriers when it comes to really bad weather.

“There’s a little bit of science and art to it,” he said. “We train the carriers as far as safety goes and what a dangerous situation is as far as snow and ice and it’s their discretion.”

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The Postal Service estimates that a small percentage of its customers don’t receive their mail due to weather. Some carriers leave notes or signs asking people to keep their mailboxes clear. In a recent note delivered to a Woodbury mailbox, the carrier asked for at least four feet of clearance on both sides.

“What we’re looking for, ideally, is about six feet in front of and on the other side of the mailbox,” said Nowacki. “We want it so the carrier is able to pull straight in and deliver and pull straight out without having to back up. Backing is hazardous, particularly when you have big snow banks around.”

While some carriers routes require them to park and walk door to door to deliver mail to boxes on homes, those who deliver mail to boxes from the trucks are not allowed to exit their vehicle.

“It’s a guideline we follow,” Nowacki said. “It’s there for safety, for the safety of the carrier and, frankly, for the safety of the community. We don’t want a person out there in the street while traffic is going by that’s probably in an icy area.”

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The Postal Service will hold mail if it’s not delivered, but won’t always leave a message or note telling customers.

Heather Brown