USPS: Missing mail deliveries only a ‘last resort’, even with a blizzard looming this Christmas

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," reads the inscription on the James A. Farley Post Office in New York. How does the USPS put that concept into action?

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," reads the inscription on the James A. Farley Post Office in New York.

But a massive winter storm threatening a huge portion of the country puts that concept in jeopardy.


How can the USPS get every card in the mailbox and every gift under the tree this year?

"It’s really our Super Bowl, is what we refer to it as," Megan Connelly the USPS Tampa Plant Manager, told FOX News' Rebekah Castor. "And it's really our time of year to shine." 

Albert Ruiz, Public Relations Representative at the U.S. Postal Service, says this week is their busiest week of the year, but they will carefully monitor the weather.

"The safety of our employees and the communities we serve is always a top priority," said Ruiz. "Carriers deliver in a wide range of temperatures and Post Office locations may close after careful consideration and only as a last resort."

The USPS’ Office of National Preparedness sends out daily weather forecasts based on the National Weather Service information and situational information to field leadership.

Events on 9/11 forced the agency to establish standards for emergency preparedness, response and recovery.

Officials consult local NWS meteorologists, local emergency managers, the department of transportation for each area and law enforcement to assess each situation. The postal service is required to heed all federal, state and local authorities safety mandates such as shelter in place, road closures, and evacuation orders.

When asked what steps in particular certain offices were taking to work to ensure holiday mail will be delivered, Ruiz said, "Our carriers deliver the mail in all kinds of weather.

"We plan for various weather issues throughout the year, including efforts to make sure employees have the necessary tools and training to do their jobs safely," Ruiz continued. "The Postal Service also makes service alerts available to consumers, small businesses and business mailers about postal facility service disruptions due to weather-related and other natural disasters or events."

Ruiz said the USPS generally has some weather or natural disaster disruption each day just because of the huge footprint it covers. The call to keep delivering comes down to the local level.

"The overall responsibility for the safety of carriers during emergencies runs down through the line organization from the Postmaster General to the Chief Retail and Delivery Officer; to subordinate area vice presidents; to district managers; and ultimately to individual facility managers," he said. "Each facility manager has the responsibility for managing emergencies affecting their facility and/or service area."

Extreme weather training for carriers

All letter carriers who work in extreme weather, like snow and ice, get special, hands-on driver training along with safety videos, talks and daily reminders.

"For postal vehicles that drive in winter weather, snow chains are made available," he said. "Our USPS vehicle maintenance department services and equips our delivery vehicles and has tow trucks available."

The USPS has a fleet of 222,682 vehicles. In addition, some carriers use their own vehicles. Those drivers also have hands-on vehicle training.

Delays can last beyond the storm. Unplowed streets, snow drifts covering mail boxes and windblown power lines lying in the street slow and stop delivery.

"Mail delivery service may be delayed or curtailed whenever streets or walkways present hazardous conditions to our carriers and/or vehicles," said Ruiz. "The Postal Service curtails delivery only after careful consideration, and only as a last resort." 

Holiday preps started in January

The effort to deliver for the holidays, despite Mother Nature’s fury, started in January.

The USPS installed almost 250 high-tech package processing machines since the first of the year. One machine in the Tampa plant can sort 3,000 parcels an hour.

USPS also hired 28,000 seasonal employees for the holiday including 1,000 extra truck drivers to go with 1,900 extra leased trailers.

The service signed leases for an extra 8.5 million square feet of space across 52 locations to handle the overflow mail and people. They have the capacity to process 60 million pieces per day, up from last year's 53 million daily package capacity.

But none of that prep matters if the package, the card or the gift doesn’t make it under your tree in time. 

Neither rain nor snow…

The inscription "Neither snow nor rain" is not a motto. The architect of the New York City Post Office building had it set in stone. The phrase is an adaptation of one in a book written by Ancient Greek Herodotus, according to the USPS.

The historian was writing about the mounted Persian postal service during the Greek and Persian Wars between 500 and 449 B.C.E.

The USPS' official comment as written on its site:

"The U.S. Postal Service has no official motto. Nope, it’s not this: ‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.’ But we certainly appreciate the sentiment."

If you have yet to mail something, the USPS recommends shipping via Priority Mail Express by Dec. 23 for a Christmas day delivery. And keep an eye out for any service advisories in your neighborhood.