Bland’s 259 post office box customers have had to collect their mail from a doorway counter in Owensville during regular office hours since apparent straight-line winds destroyed the facility in Bland this past Wednesday afternoon.
Evelyn Schalk is one of those Bland residents who made the 19-mile round trip to Owensville on Monday pick up her mail .
“I’ll probably drive down here every day but I really can’t afford it,” said Schalk, who makes several trips a week to Owensville driving grandchildren to various activities. “There are a lot of older people who don’t get around as well as I do. I’m sure they’ll figure out something.”
Cathy Honse, officer in charge at the Bland Post Office, said Tuesday that customer boxes from Bland have been moved and installed in the lobby of the Owensville Post Office. Since they will be opening their original box from Bland, they will use their same key unless there is undetected damage preventing them from opening. Mail was still being delivered Tuesday from the doorway counter but was scheduled to be available from the relocated locked boxes today.
Honse said only a couple of customers will need to have a new mail box assigned due to damage from the Oct. 17 windstorm. Honse said at least two of the larger-sized boxes were damaged either during the storm or as the boxes were being removed from the site. One additional 101R (rotating) unit was scheduled to be brought into the Owensville lobby to accommodate additional locked boxes for parcels and larger deliveries.
On Friday, United States Postal Service maintenance personnel from Columbia and St. Louis had delivered five of the 101R rotating boxes to the Owensville office which were commandeered from USPS facilities in Belleville, Ill., and the Missouri towns of Barnhart and Lake Ozark.
The crew had planned to use the boxes in those units, configured to match the numbering set-up in Bland. However, the locked boxes in Bland were not damaged as originally feared.
Charles McCormick, a USPS maintenance employee, on Friday said one of the Bland 101R boxes was wedged in place and was holding up a section of the front window and door assembly which caved into the lobby. A metal framing system holding the boxes secured to the interior wall absorbed most of the impact when the exterior window and door frames collapsed inward, said McCormick.
A woman from Bland stopped by the Owensville facility on Friday afternoon and inquired about having a mail box installed in front of her residence on a “dirt road” at the edge of town. She was given an application to fill out.
“Residents on a Rural Route can request a route extension and put a box up on the route,” said Valerie Welsch, corporate communications for the USPS’s Gateway District in St. Louis. “Customers can get the information form from the Owensville Post Office about where their box must be located.”
Honse said she had opened a window to allow a breeze into the facility as the weather warmed Wednesday afternoon. A few moments later, she heard the windows begin to rattle.
“The windows were shaking,” said Honse an hour after the storm passed. “There was no warning, no nothing. I’m still a little shaky.”
She took shelter in a storage room in the back of the building. Deputy Sgt. Tom Dodson had to lead her out of the damaged building. The National Weather Service reported winds up to 60 miles per hour had rolled through the south-central portion of the county on a generally southwest to northeast line.
“She was pretty scared,” said Dodson. “She didn’t know if she should come out or not.”
Dodson was just coming on duty at 4 p.m. and noticed dark, low-hanging clouds rotating over his residence a block north of the post office. Moments later, he heard the post office roof being torn loose.
“As soon as I came out of the house, I looked up, about 20, 30 feet up, you could see those dark clouds just spinning. And then as I was getting in the car, all the leaves and everything come up off the ground and start to form a little debris field and I just watched it go by…right above my head.”
Storm sirens did not sound in Bland, residents said.
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