By John Burton
Where do you get your mail when the post office’s branch in your town is severely damaged?
Postal customers in Sea Bright, Highlands and Oceanport have been finding out just that.
The effects of Super Storm Sandy – still being felt and promising to continue to be felt for some time to come – have impacted the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to deliver the mail in some areas.
The late October storm wreaked havoc along much of the Jersey Shore and caused nearly 20 postal facilities to sustain severe damage or be rendered unusable.
The facilities in Highlands, Sea Bright and Oceanport remain inaccessible to workers and customers, according to Raymond Daiutolo Sr., a U.S. Postal Service regional spokesman.
With those facilities out of commission for the time being, Daiutolo said the service had put into place contingency plans to allow customers access to their mail.
Residents and businesses of Highlands and Sea Bright can get their mail by traveling to Rumson’s post office, 6 Hunt St.
Oceanport carriers have begun attempting to deliver mail on the town’s six scheduled routes but the success of those deliveries depends on the condition of individual streets and homes.
Those in Oceanport, who cannot yet get mail deliveries at their homes or businesses, should go to the Eatontown processing center, 307 Industrial Way, where the postal service has placed a trailer for the additional workload, Daiutolo said.
To accommodate the increased demand on these locations, a number of the employees who would normally work at the Highlands, Sea Bright or Oceanport sites are working at the other facilities.
“We’re telling people, if you’re going to be displaced for a significant amount of time, we’re suggesting that you fill out a temporary change of address,” he said.
“We realize it’s not the best-case scenario,” he said, “but at least it’s a decent alternative for the time being.”
Postal service representatives and private contractors have been inspecting the facilities to best determine the extent of work and the time needed to get the post offices back into shape for customers, according to Daiutolo.
It’s been a difficult time for postal workers, and it certainly has been difficult for their customers, many of who are facing substantial challenges in the storm’s aftermath, he acknowledged.
“Customers see mail as something that brings a sense of normalcy to their lives,” he said. “Our mission and focus is: how do we connect those customers with that mail in the most efficient and convenient way?”
Evaluating this in comparison to what he has seen in his long tenure with the postal service, Daiutolo said, “This is something that is more extensive than anything I’ve seen in my 26, 27 years.”
In the aftermath of 9/11 the USPS began drawing up additional emergency contingency plans, which it reviews annually. Those precautions were a great benefit after this storm, Daiutolo said.