January 18, 2022

Frozen, but undaunted

Sub-zero temps, brutal wind chill can’t stop mail carriers

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Postal worker John State tries to stay warm Thursday while delivering mail along his 10-mile route in Cortland.

John State delivered mail Thursday on William Street in bone-chilling temperatures bundled up in a face mask, handwarmers, gloves, three layers of pants and four layers of tops, including a heavy winter coat.

“Over the years you kind of learn what works,” State said. “As long as you can have mobility in your fingers, then it makes life doable.”

He noted it was one of the top five coldest days he’s worked during his 19 years at the post office.

Temperatures reached a high of 9 degrees Thursday in Cortland, but the wind chill made it feel as low as minus 25 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Next week, the state will get reprieve from the cold as the National Weather Service expects a high of 49 degrees Monday, 46 Tuesday and 44 Wednesday.

But until then, State and Cortland County have to make do.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a travel ban Tuesday — lifted Thursday night — for tractor-trailers and buses on several highways, telling drivers that fines and points on licenses would be issued if they were caught on the road. Tompkins Cortland Community College and SUNY Cortland both canceled classes, as did school districts.

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit offered free services on Thursday and Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms also issued a travel advisory from Wednesday until 9 a.m. Thursday.

Similar temperatures were seen across the state. The weather service had a wind chill advisory in effect from 12:58 p.m. Thursday until 11 a.m. today. Temperatures are expected to climb into the teens today.

In the Midwest, some post offices closed because of the cold, a departure from the Postal Service motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

State said the winter is the hardest season to work in between navigating snowy and icy sidewalks, to working with the weight of all the extra clothing.

“It definitely slows you down because you have more layers,” State said.

However, the sunshine helped a little Thursday as he worked his normal route, which spans 10 miles and covers part of Main Street and extends to Pine Street in Cortland.

“I’m grateful the sunshine is out, the wind chill is bad enough,” he said.

It also helps to have something warm to drink, but only if you can get off enough of the layers to take a sip. State had a flask of hot chocolate in the mail truck.