Joplin Post Office Overcomes Tornado Destruction

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JOPLIN - Shane Miller used to have one of the biggest postal routes in Joplin. Then, on May 22, a delivery from Mother Nature changed that. When an EF-5 tornado cut through the heart of town, it wiped out all of Miller's route.

Miller delivered along Main Street in an area of businesses, doctors' offices and law firms.

"You really get to know the people on your route," Miller said. "You get close to them. They see you more than they see their grandkids."

That's why he's never looked at the names of the 160 fatalities.

"I didn't want to know if anyone from my route passed away."

Rick Belcher, head of post office operations in Joplin, told KOMU within days of the tornado strike, post office workers were out delivering mail -- even to places in the disaster zone. The post office had help from postmasters from the surrounding towns who came in to Joplin to organize the mountain of mail with no place to go in the aftermath of the tornado.

"We had nearly 4,900 addresses that were deemed undeliverable," Belcher said. "But of those 4,900, just 600 still remain lost."

The post office in Joplin has had what Belcher called "remarkable success" finding the new addresses of those who lost their homes in the storm.

No postal worker died in the May 22 tornado, and all are currently working.

"We I got reassigned to my new route, people would see me out delivering, they'd throw their car into park and give me a big 'ol hug," Miller said. "They were just so happy to see me...so happy I was alive."

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