News Feature

State of Maine
Originally published in Castine Patriot, December 13, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, December 13, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, December 13, 2018
Most frequent victim of winter storms? Mailboxes.

by Anne Berleant

The snow came early this year, with winter storms barreling through in early and mid-November, prompting a fleet of plow trucks to clear roads, throw down sand and salt, and keep everyday life from grinding to a complete halt.

With plow trucks clearing snow for hours along main and side roads, accidents can happen—and the object that probably is most often sacrificed in the name of clear roads is the mailbox.

“There are a lot of factors that come into play, whether it’s oncoming traffic, heavy, wet slush, the severity of the storm, or even if the mailboxes are installed properly,” said Maine Department of Transportation employee Nick Pesek, who works out of MDOT’s Sedgwick facility.

MDOT has specific standards for mailboxes, available at maine.gov/mdot/winterdriving/mailboxpolicy. It recommends the extended arm type of post with a free-swinging, suspended mailbox that allows snowplows to edge close or under boxes without damaging the supports while providing easy access by mail carriers.

MDOT likes mailbox heights to be closer to the high range of the 41”-45” height United States Postal Service standard, “to minimize conflict with the height of the plow truck wing when snow is being pushed back during, or between, winter storms.” Mailboxes should be set back at least one foot from the edge of the normally plowed surface of the road, and posts shouldn’t be so rugged that, when struck by a vehicle, they don’t break away.

For plow trucks, the kind of support used will likely make little difference if one hits or edges a mailbox.

“Just understand that if a mailbox is hit/damaged, it is an accident, and sometimes out of our control as to how all factors and more will affect each individual box.”

While local authorities urge local residents to stay off the roads during snowstorms, plowed roads are important so that emergency vehicles and vital service trucks, like those carrying heating oil, can continue to operate.

For the plowers working for long hours in swirling or even blinding snow, there are ways to make their job a little easier and the roads safer for all drivers.

“Whether [plowing for] two minutes or 10 hours, the priorities are the same, to provide the public with safe roads to travel on given the available resources,” Pesek said.

He recommends drivers allow more time to travel at safe speeds for the conditions, and determine whether that trip is really necessary.

“Keep in mind that we are big trucks with extra gear on to fight these storms, so just like any big truck, please give us plenty of space so that we can operate our vehicles properly and safely.”