Jen Bradley felt helpless looking at the berm of snow and ice that blocked her mailbox.
A week before Christmas — during the first big storm this winter in Central Oregon — a snowplow cleared her street in southeast Bend but left a snow pile large enough to block the mailbox she shares with her seven neighbors.
No one on her street was physically able to clear the snow, and they went days without receiving mail.
Bradley unsuccessfully tried to clear the snow, all the while hoping not to get hit by a passing car.
“We pay with our tax money to have the streets cleared, so why is it now, we are the ones having to try and shovel where the plows are supposed to clear for us?” she said recently. “The main streets are not our responsibility, but now we are stuck with no mail.”
Bradley is among many Bend residents who went days without mail during the winter storms in December and January because their mailboxes were buried in snow and postal carriers could not reach them.
Ernie Swanson, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman, said postal carriers are instructed not to deliver if they cannot safely get to a mailbox. The Postal Service asks that residents clear a path to their mailbox, but Swanson understands that is asking too much for elderly and disabled residents.
“When there is snow and ice out there we make as many deliveries as we possibly can, but we don’t want to endanger our carriers,” Swanson said.
It is a balancing act between the health and safety of a mail carrier, and delivering important mail on time, Swanson said.
If mail cannot be delivered, it is held at the post office. Carriers take the mail out each day to see if conditions have improved.
“The carriers don’t want to take the mail back to the office,” Swanson said. “They want to deliver it.”
The snow berms and ice blocking mailboxes is also an issue for package deliveries.
Pat McCartney, a carrier with FedEx Express, has a route on the west side of Bend. Access to homes has improved since the harsh winter storm last week, McCartney said, but now package carriers are having trouble identifying homes in the snow.
Snow has blocked house numbers displayed outside homes, McCartney said. Carriers will not leave a package unless they are certain of the address.
“People are doing a pretty good job of keeping their driveways clear, but failing to keep their addresses clear,” he said.
For those unable to clear the snow around their address, McCartney suggests writing the address on a piece of cardboard or paper plate and leaving that outside the house.
FedEx, in particular, had other problems last week besides finding people’s homes. Heavy snow threatened to cave in a wall of a FedEx distribution center in Bend on Wednesday, prompting the evacuation and closure of the building, with undelivered packages still inside.
Carriers have been working extra hours, including this weekend, to make up missed deliveries from the closure.
McCartney did 45 deliveries on Thursday. He said 30 of those deliveries were snow shovels or rakes, unfortunately arriving a few days after they were surely needed. Nearly 3 feet of snow had already fallen across Bend.
Many people were happy to finally see McCartney.
“Most things are time-sensitive. It could be medicine, things people really need,” he said. “It’s been really hard for us to get caught up and stay caught up.”
A snow berm still sits in front of the mailboxes where Bradley and her neighbors went a few more days this month without mail.
But last week, Bradley watched a mail carrier climb his way over the berm to deliver the mail.
Bradley was grateful.
“I told him I was sorry about that,” she said. “I wish I could fix it, but I can’t.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7820,