Shipping scramble is on

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Marty Vandriel, a mail carrier with the Cortez Post Office, prepares for his route Wednesday morning. His vehicle is equipped with four-wheel-drive, so the blustering snow was no bother. Monday was the busiest day for the Postal Service nationally. Enlargephoto

Luke Groskopf/Cortez Journal

Marty Vandriel, a mail carrier with the Cortez Post Office, prepares for his route Wednesday morning. His vehicle is equipped with four-wheel-drive, so the blustering snow was no bother. Monday was the busiest day for the Postal Service nationally.

Post office busy in final days before Christmas

By Luke Groskopf

Journal Staff Writer

The final countdown is on for people shipping last-minute holiday gifts to loved ones via the U.S. Postal Service.

To arrive in time for Christmas next Tuesday, standard Parcel Post will no longer cut it. The recommended USPS mail-by deadlines are today for First-Class mail (less than 13 ounces), Friday for Priority Mail (two-day delivery), and for the most shameless procrastinators, Saturday for Express Mail (overnight).

The line of customers ebbed and flowed at the Cortez Post Office Tuesday afternoon. Around 2 p.m. the line numbered more than 20 people and spilled beyond the double glass doors into the P.O. Box antechamber. It then dwindled to a handful momentarily, before a smattering of new arrivals clutching precious cargo filled up the room again.

One arrival was Kristen Tworek, who entered toting three packages destined for her sister in Denver, and brother and parents in Michigan.

A recent transplant to Cortez, Tworek said the boxes contained homemade cookies and assorted Colorado paraphernalia. She admitted her reputation for Christmas gift timeliness was less than stellar.

"I was hoping to have it all finished by last week," she said, laughing. "But my family knows this about me. They'll be expecting the boxes to arrive next week, after Christmas."

Soon after, though, Tworek emerged from the counter in relief.

"They'll arrive Friday!" she said.

Monday marked the busiest day for the Postal Service all year, with an estimated 658 million cards, letters and packages processed nationally, compared to an average of 560 million during the holidays, and 528 million on a standard business day.

Package volume is projected to be 20 percent higher than 2011.

In all, 17.9 billion items will be delivered by the Postal Service between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.

Cortez postmaster Shelley Rullestad has noticed a few changing trends during his 29 years with the Postal Service.

"Parcel volume has risen with the popularity of online shopping, whereas letter volume has tapered off," he said. "Not as many people send Christmas cards as they used to."

'Tis the season for the nation's private carriers, too.

Today marks the peak for UPS, whose drivers will deliver more than 300 packages per second for a total of 28 million. The UPS website managed some 69 million tracking requests on Tuesday, more than double the normal average. FedEx marked its busiest day on Dec. 10, with 19 million shipments, another new record.

Both companies once again hired legions of temporary workers to handle the influx: 55,000 at UPS and 20,000 at FedEx.

lukeg@cortezjournal.com