Deep-freeze disruption

January 31, 2019

On a normal day, Tim Meyer would have been outside delivering mail as he always does in downtown Fort Wayne.

Wednesday was not a normal day.

With temperatures well below zero and wind chills approaching minus 50 degrees, the letter carrier was with many of his co-workers : inside, sorting mail and attending training sessions. The U.S. Postal Service suspended mail delivery across much of Indiana and in some other Midwest states because of the extreme cold, and Meyer learned Wednesday morning he wouldn’t be sent out on his usual route.

Wind chills reached minus 43 degrees at Fort Wayne International Airport, according to the National Weather Service, and the coldest air temperature measured there was 13 below zero, setting a record for the date.

Was Meyer looking forward to a workday in temperatures experts say could cause frostbite in minutes?

“No,” he said, laughing.

He escaped the deep freeze and will again today because the Postal Service announced Wednesday afternoon it will again suspend mail delivery here and across much of the state.

But plenty of other workers in Fort Wayne weren’t as lucky Wednesday and had to brave the bite of winter winds for work.

Citilink buses traveled their regular routes, and administrators cautioned riders to keep a close eye on schedules and social media to ensure those needing transportation wouldn’t have to wait too long at bus stops.

“We always make an effort to be on time,” Citilink spokeswoman Betsy Kachmar said.

Hot pizzas were delivered across the city from restaurants where managers were too busy to talk about an uptick in orders.

Caretakers of animals at Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo were also on duty.

“We have asked the keepers to take precautions with exposure outside; ... layers and avoiding long exposure outside,” zoo spokeswoman Bonnie Kemp said. “We had plenty of notice the weather was coming, so we took the necessary precautions early in the week to ensure keepers and staff could limit their exposure today and tomorrow.”

Packages weren’t delivered by Postal Service employees, but UPS and FedEx were operating.

FedEx wouldn’t make a delivery driver available for an interview but issued a statement saying the company was monitoring the weather, which could affect deliveries in some areas.

“Our priority is the safety of our team members and meeting the service needs of our customers,” the statement said.

A man who loaded and unloaded boxes from trucks at the FedEx facility in New Haven on Wednesday credited the company for providing employees with hand warmers and breaks from the cold.

“As long as you wear the right clothes, you’re good,” said the man, who asked that his name not be used because he is not authorized to talk to reporters. “We were a little slow because of the temperatures.”

Utility companies also reported seeing ripple effects from the cold weather. NIPSCO said in a statement crews have “responded quickly to brief service interruptions as they occur.”

“And, while sub-zero temperatures and increased usage push the limits of the system for energy companies across the Midwest, there are no significant issues to report from NIPSCO,” according to the statement.

Temperatures are expected to slowly rise this week, but the weather service has a wind chill advisory in place until 2 p.m. today. The high temperature today is expected to be 4 degrees, and 1 to 3 inches of snow is expected to fall in Fort Wayne before Friday, according to forecasters.


Rosa Salter Rodriguez of The Journal Gazette contributed to this report.

Update hourly