MORRIS – Shametta Hartley walks down High Street trudging through snow while organizing mail with her stiff hands. She lowers her head and grimaces when a gust of wind whips snow into her face and knocks her off balance. She’s already fallen once today.
“Are you all right out there,” asks her supervisor, Benesse Simpson, who is following Shametta in a mail truck.
“Yeah, I’m OK,” she responds. “Almost done.”
Monday marked Hartley’s third day of work as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. She still was learning the mail route when negative 15 degree temperatures and nine inches of snow hit Morris.
“This is the beginner’s route. It takes about six hours to finish,” Hartley said. “Sometimes you have 25 minutes where you’re outside walking.”
Unlike many workers in Grundy County who were given Monday off, Hartley, her fellow mail carriers and other public service employees had to brave the extreme temperatures to go to work Monday.
According to Simpson, mail carriers had to complete all of their routes as usual.
“We gave them a time frame to make sure they are back in the office within their eight-hour schedule,” Simpson said. “We’re making every effort to deliver all of the mail as scheduled.”
Simpson said the mail service is prepared for extreme weather. Carriers are provided with special cold weather gear and supplies so they can finish their routes.
Chief Tracey Steffes of the Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District said preparation on days like today is important so that emergency workers don’t get stuck on their way to a rescue.
“We have our own plow truck. We staff that plow truck so that we can send it out with our men to help get us into snowy spots,” Steffes said. “We never shut down. We can’t. When people call for help, somebody has to respond.”
Jim Gretencord, Director of Public Works for the city of Morris, said snow plow drivers and other public works employees also had work today, though they tried to keep them out of the cold as much as possible.
“We’re not doing any outside work unless we absolutely have to,” Gretencord said. “We’re trying to keep them inside the trucks as much as possible.”
For several local heating and cooling businesses, Monday proved to be busier than usual, requiring workers to work longer in the below-zero weather.
“It’s been busy. We have probably had about six more calls than we usually do,” said Greg Carlson, owner of R. L. Lyon Inc. Heating and Air Conditioning in Morris.
Carlson said many of the repairs were minor, but they did have one customer needing a furnace replaced.
“In an emergency situation like that, we can have it replaced before the end of the day,” Carlson said.