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It's postal equivalent of Black Friday

Postal workers are bracing for the busiest day of the holiday season Monday, when nearly 1 billion cards, letters and packages will pass through U.S. post offices.

Modesto area post offices are open extended hours for the holidays, Modesto Postmaster Cory Sandobal said Tuesday. The stations are open a half-hour earlier than usual, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Sandobal recommended that people ship Christmas packages as soon as possible, especially if the gifts are headed to the East Coast. Ice storms have forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights in the Midwest, including those carrying mail.

"That's potentially going to affect packages being delivered. We don't want people to wait. If they have something going East, the sooner they get it out, the better," said Sandobal, who advised that people mail packages to the East Coast this week to ensure delivery by Christmas.

To avoid long lines at the post office, Sandobal said, customers should mail packages Friday or Tuesday, rather than Monday, which has become a hectic day at post offices across the nation.

Lines tend to be shorter from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and after the lunch rush, Sandobal said.

Two post offices in Modesto, the Hudson Station on Sylvan Avenue and the main office on Kearney Avenue, have auto- mated postal centers, at which people can send packages by swiping a credit or debit card.

Depending on the destination of the package, anything shipped after Monday or Tuesday may require the extra cost of priority or express mail for Christmas delivery, he said.

"The thing that is going to be beneficial is that we will be delivering mail on Christmas Eve to get out all those extra packages," Sandobal said.

For parcels sent first class or priority mail, the deadline is Dec. 20. Customers have until Dec. 22 to send Christmas packages by express mail.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.

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