Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Some of us grew up thinking it was an official postal service motto. It isn’t. It is sort of accepted as an unofficial motto. It is inscribed on the James Farley Post Office in New York City.
The phrase is fairly accurate — snow, rain, heat, and darkness don’t mean “snow days” for letter carriers. The USPS is not totally insensible, though. Ice storms and freezing rain can halt mail service, though it is rare. Major storms like hurricanes and terrorist attacks like 9-11 can stop mail for a while, but that is usually a result of post offices being damaged or destroyed, or roads being blocked or needed for emergency vehicles only, or residences being unapproachable.
This doesn’t mean that that USPS doesn’t do its best to get you your mail during emergencies. Within days of hurricane Katrina, the USPS joined with other agencies to make sure people got pension and social security checks. Temporary distribution centers delivered more than 30,000 checks in September of 2005. The service also urged people to complete change-of-address requests — providing instructions to national news outlets to try to spread the word. By the end of 2005, 520,000 change-of-address requests were processed for households displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
2005 was a banner year for hurricanes. Seventeen post offices were destroyed and over 500 were damaged. Temporary mail centers were set up in tents, RVs, and trailers. And the USPS persisted.