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Post Offices Gearing Up For Later-Than-Usual Holiday Crunch

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Postal Service handles 200 billion pieces of mail every year, and, of course, the volume picks up during the holidays.

Last week's ice storm caused problems with postal delivery, making December business even more of a mess this year. And people who haven't yet mailed their holiday gifts, cards and packages are advised to do so before the rush hits.

Postal offices are extending their hours and increasing their staffs to get ready for the crunch. They are well aware that last week's storm postponed many people's plans to send out their holiday mailings.

From the looks of the lines in more than one Triangle post office on Friday, it was hard to believe the holiday rush hasn't started yet. Many customers spent their lunch hour in line at postal facilities so they won't have to fight the crowds next week.

"It's picking up," said customer Kim Johnson. "It hasn't been really bad yet. I'm sure a lot of people will wait until the last minute."

They always do. The lines are expected to get longer starting Monday, which is expected to be one of the busiest days of the year for postal employees.

Customer Cindy Heath mailed her stocking stuffers Friday, so she won't be one of those frantic, last-minute customers. She remembers last year, when a gift she sent to someone special just barely arrived before Christmas.

"Last year, I sent it out too late," Heath said, "and I was sweating bullets. She got it the day before Christmas Eve. I didn't want that to happen again this year."

There are some things people can do to make sure the shipping goes smoothly. It starts with a good, sturdy box.

"Make sure it's addressed properly," said postal worker Sandra Boyd. "If you're mailing something over a pound, make sure if you put stamps on it, that you bring it into the post office."

Postal workers were slowed down some by last week's ice storm. They say they're caught up now and ready to handle the inevitable crunch.

"They know sometimes customers get a little agitated," Boyd said. "But we're ready for that, and we have our Christmas spirit, and we're ready to send off your packages and suppies."

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