Even in bad weather most mail goes through

photo Gabriel Higdon, who has been delivering mail since 2001, leans out of his vehicle to reach a mailbox as he travels the icy roads of Lookout Mountain on Wednesday. Higdon said he's been able to complete most of his route, but has been unable to reach a small number of mailboxes.

Gabriel Higdon spun his mail truck's tires, sloshed through the streets and leaned way out over piles of snow to deliver mail around Lookout Mountain on Wednesday.

When he got to 87-year-old Jim Glascock's house, where the snow was nearly 13 inches deep around the mailbox, he decided getting mail into the box wasn't good enough.

Glascock shuffled out the front door, where Higdon met him with a stack of letters, bills and magazine subscription offers.

"You're an angel," said Glascock, digging in his wallet for a tip.

Higdon turned down the cash and hopped back in the truck to move on to the next address.

"What a saint he is," said Glascock as he thumbed through the envelopes.

Neither snow nor ice kept Higdon and other carriers around the region from delivering their parcels - most of the time.

"We've got a job to do and, unfortunately, when the weather gets bad, we've still got to do it," said Beth Barnett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in the Nashville office. "We've made all the deliveries that were passable, where the carrier can get to the mailbox."

Higdon, who has delivered mail on the mountain since 2001, estimated that he could not reach 20 of the 400 boxes on his route Tuesday. Another Lookout Mountain carrier said she was blocked from six out of 300.

On Wednesday, Higdon followed his route, spinning his chained tires in a few spots and often leaning far out the truck's window to reach the box. Part of the problem, he said, is that the snow plowed off the road piles up on the shoulder - right where the mail trucks need to go.

"If you get off the road, you're stuck," he said.

His boss, Postmaster Robin Randolph, said every letter carrier on the mountain had to be towed back onto the road at some point Tuesday. She said the Georgia side of the mountain has been worse, but she figured more than 90 percent of the mail has been delivered on schedule.

"If we can get to the box, we're delivering," she said.

Susan Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for UPS, said most routes were back on track as the roads thawed Wednesday. After pulling drivers off the road earlier in the week, the Chattanooga UPS hub sent out 85 of its 86 drivers Wednesday, she said.

The UPS website lists entire ZIP codes that are shut down in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, including areas around Bridgeport, Ala., and Blairsville, Ga.

Even where the trucks are running, some packages may not have been delivered.

"There may be isolated roads that are still impassible," Rosenberg said. "We may be out delivering, but the businesses themselves are closed."

Judy Mahaffey, customer service supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service General Mail Facility on Shallowford Road, said most of the mail around the Chattanooga area is being delivered and all 12 area post offices have remained open.

While several trucks have slid into ditches, one of the biggest challenges has been making sure employees can get to the office.

"Once they got to work, they were doing pretty good on most roads," she said.

But some homes or businesses with steep grades or deep ditches may still have empty boxes, Mahaffey said.

"It may be another day or so before we are able to get to those," she said.

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