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Frank Gray

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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
A mailbox on Jefferson Boulevard lies on a snowbank after snow-removal efforts knocked it off its base.

Mailboxes a hot commodity

It’s a good idea to keep your eyes on the road when you’re driving in weather like we’ve had this winter, but if you happen to glance to the side from time to time, you’ll notice certain things.

Occasionally you will spot the corner of a garbage can, the huge type that the city supplies, sticking out of the snow. Underneath mounds of snow perhaps 5 feet high is the rest of the container, hopelessly buried by the snow thrown to the side by plows.

Now and then you’ll also notice a stray mailbox, torn from its post, resting on top of one of the ridges of snow that line the streets.

Mailboxes, it turns out, just weren’t designed to stand up to heavy walls of snow being thrown at 30 mph by plows.

That prompted a call from one reader. If a plow knocks down your mailbox, is the city responsible? The caller said his girlfriend’s mailbox had been leveled by a plow.

Maybe, if the plow actually hit the mailbox, the city could be on the hook, but most of the damage I’ve seen appeared to have been done by flying snow. It’s no secret this happens.

The man added that he had gone to a local hardware store to get a replacement mailbox, only to be told they were out of mailboxes.

He said he was told they always run out of mailboxes this time of year.

I talked to Randy Rusk, communications director for Do it Best Corp. The dead of winter, when we’re setting records for low temperatures and snowfall, isn’t time when most people decide to replace their mailboxes – so what’s going on, I asked him.

It turns out that the dead of winter is the hottest time of year for the mailbox business.

Rusk said that the company’s merchandise manager said there is traditionally an uptick in mailbox sales this time of year due to what he called winter weather damage.

Presumably, that includes tsunamis of heavy, hard snow kicked up by plows.

With the heavy snow this year, Rusk said, mailbox sales are even higher, with demand up 12 percent above normal.

Rusk mused about how one would even manage to put up a mailbox in this weather. The ground is covered in snow, and even if you could reach the ground, it would be frozen hard as concrete and impossible to dig a post hole.

But no mailbox, he noted, means no mail, so the run on mailboxes continues.

In time, the things buried in snow – mailboxes, garbage cans and who knows what else – will be revealed, and it might come sooner than expected.

By the end of next week, temperatures are supposed to be in the 50s.

That seems to be setting up a scenario very similar to one that happened 32 years ago. It was a bitterly cold winter that left the ground hard as concrete, snowfall set a record that wasn’t broken until this year, and then winter suddenly broke and temperatures hit the 50s.

The result was the flood of 1982.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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