DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
If you're getting any mail from New Orleans this week, you might have noticed the postmark no longer says Baton Rouge, Atlanta or Houston. Instead New Orleans, Louisiana is stamped in all capital letters on the upper right-hand corner of the envelope.
Seven months after Hurricane Katrina hit, getting mail into and out of the Crescent City continues to be a challenge.
NPR's Amy Walters reports.
AMY WALTERS reporting:
Kurt Gerin(ph) is running his regular errands after work. He stops by the post office in downtown New Orleans. He would love to pick up his latest issue of Esquire or Sports Illustrated, but his magazine subscriptions haven't been available since Katrina. Instead, he's trying to straighten out the mess of his post-Katrina mail. He moved four times since the storm, but his mail only followed him through move two.
Mr. KURT GERIN (New Orleans Resident): The third foreign address completely threw the mail post office for a loop. Now the mail at the address I have it forwarded to is going to the previous owner's house in California. I have no idea how, and his mail's coming over here.
WALTERS: He's here sending the mail he received back to its rightful owner.
Mr. GERIN: This is going right to Baton Rouge, so if we're lucky, seven days, 90 miles away.
(Soundbite of postmark machine)
WALTERS: That sound could shorten the adventure of Gerin's package by five days. It's a postmark machine, and it's marking mail right here in New Orleans. It's the first time this has happened on a large scale since Katrina. Dave Luwen(ph), a spokesman for the postal service, says this is big.
Mr. DAVE LUWEN (Postal Service Spokesman): We had mail directly after the hurricane that was going all the way to Houston, to Dallas, to Shreveport, and to Baton Rouge. Now we're able to bring all of that work activity back into the city, so the result for customers is gonna be improved service, without a doubt.
WALTERS: Improved perhaps, but with still a ways to go. Alfred Taylor(ph) is a mail carrier. He evacuated to Georgia after the storm, and the postal service offered him a job there, but the route had more hills than he was used to, and it just wasn't the same as home. Now he rents an apartment in the city while still paying for the mortgage on his flooded house in New Orleans East. He says there's a shortage of workers, not everyone can move back.
Mr. ALFRED TAYLOR (New Orleans Mail Carrier): In my station alone, you know, we have, like, about 40 routes, and we only have, like, about maybe, I think, on the average, probably about 16 or 18 people that's on staff right now. We just don't have the manpower to do it.
(Soundbite of postmark machine)
WALTERS: But Taylor does get some encouragement. As he drives around the neighborhood, customers wave and smile as they reach into their full mailboxes.
Mr. TAYLOR: It just feels good to be back, you know, doing a thing that you love to do everyday, you know?
WALTERS: In the coming months, mail facilities will return to two more New Orleans post offices, and May 1st, catalogs and magazines are expected again. Amy Walters, NPR News, New Orleans.
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