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How this winter is challenging your mail carrier

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HARTFORD - Whether it's the bone-chilling cold we're facing now or the scorching heat we sweat through in the summer, the letter carriers for the United States Postal Service brave the elements to make sure we get our mail.

Paul Crooks is one of those carriers in Hartford, delivering mail for 24 years. Each morning, he brings the mail to an estimated 500 homes in the city.

“Every day is like a little snow globe for me,” Crooks said, describing his typical winter day.

Crooks loves his job and has gotten to know his regular customers, but in the winter, his job becomes truly dangerous.

“In this kind of weather, you have to be really careful, shuffling your feet,” Crooks explained. "Especially [the] day after a melt, you have to be really careful for any snow over ice.”

Crooks said that stairs are the worst part of his eight-hour route in the winter. Climbing over snowbanks is also challenging, as is maneuvering around black ice, which poses an additional danger if its cloaked under a layer of snow.

The Post Office asks that customers clear a  path to their mailboxes, either at the end of a driveway or near the front door, depending on the mailbox's location. If there is no clear path, the mail may be brought back to the Post Office and not delivered.

It's important to keep the paths clear, even after small snow storms. “The worst times are after the small storms,” said Crooks. “With the small storms, people assume it's going to melt. The big storms, everybody shovels. But it's the small storms, that's when we have a hard time.”

Putting down salt is also crucial so carriers do not slip on icy patches. Crooks said the carriers certainly appreciate when customers salt their walkways, making their job as safe as possible.

“When they get their paper, they'll put the salt out," Crooks said of his customers. “I'll beep and wave... and they'll tell me, ‘I put the salt out for you.’ And I'll say thank you!”

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