Holiday packages piling up

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— Today will be the busiest day of the year at post offices nationwide, including the one in Steamboat Springs, as residents rush to get packages mailed in time for delivery prior to Christmas.

Already, holiday packages are piling up at the post office and storage room for the boxes is running out, Postmaster Bill Butler said.

Customers shouldick up their mail regularly. This month, the U.S. Postal Service expects to handle 147 million packages and 122 million cards and letters per day.

Holiday mail should be brought to the post office early in the day to avoid crowds. Tuesday and Thursday are expected to be less busy.

Butler said out-of-state cards and packages should be postmarked by Tuesday in order to ensure arrival by Christmas. Cards and packages being sent in state should be mailed by Thursday.

After Thursday, out-of-state packages will have to be sent by Express Mail in order to be delivered by Christmas.

Package contents should be properly packed and secured in a sturdy box with no writing on the outside and sealed with packing tape. The outside of the box should be free of string and wrapping paper. Food should be wrapped securely in a sealed container on the inside of the box.

Due to the recent anthrax scares, all mail should include a return address on the outside and inside of the package. Items weighing more than 16 ounces must be personally handed to a postal employee.

In the past, Any Soldier Mail has allowed civilians to send letters and packages to servicemen. However, Butler said the program has been canceled due to "issues with terrorism."

For postal rates, ZIP codes, post office hours and other information, customers can call

(800) ASK-USPS or access www.usps.com.

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