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Post Office buckles down for holiday rush

December 22, 2011

(From left) Acting Postmaster Tim Chiodini and retail clerks Larry Beatty and Tina Kendra prepare to wrap up the business day Wednesday at the Punxsutawney Post Office in the East End, as the holiday rush of letters and packages continues through the days before Christmas. (Photo by Dan Long)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — There is no normal way that carriers and staff of the U.S. Postal Service prepare for the holiday rush that hit its peak Tuesday.

How did the staff at the Punxsy Post Office prepare?

“Buckle down,” said Tim Chiodini, who is the postmaster in Brookville and acting postmaster in Punxsy while John McBee supervises the Bradford post office for a short period of time. “We will normally use different staffing, but we just have to get it done.”

Monday, the U.S. Postal Service said it expected to deliver 16.5 billion letters, packages and cards between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

The busiest day for mailing this trove of holiday cheer was expected to be this past Tuesday, when more than 600 million cards and letters would be processed.

The busiest day for delivery of packages was Monday.

Chiodini said his staff is certainly seeing its volume increase.

“Everything is probably 50 percent more; it’s just phenomenal on how many letters come through,” he said. “Packages also, they double, if not triple. It’s a long day for some people.”

Office hours for the public are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, but carriers begin their routes around 7:30 a.m. Even starting that early, given the volume of holiday packages and mails, they sometimes work until 5 p.m.

“Today (Wednesday) was a lighter day, but most carriers had 40 to 50 parcels,” Chiodini said.

A parcel is defined as anything larger than a shoebox, or just weighing slightly more than two pounds. But that doesn’t include the smaller items, such as those packaged in padded envelopes.

“Most of the first class are the lighter items; they can carry that in their satchels. But that (first-class mail) goes from one tub to three tubs per day. It makes it extra difficult for rural carriers, now that they have to do dismount,” or leave their vehicles, Chiodini said.

The flow, of course, will slow down once Christmas is over.

“It will still continue though, not as nearly as the way it is now,” Chiodini said. “It will trickle down into the middle of January.”

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