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Post office using Sundays to keep on top of last-minute holiday shipping

Haleigh Finch mails a couple of Christmas presents Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, at the Grand Forks Post Office. (Jesse Trelstad/Forum News Service)1 / 2
Postal clerk Jenell Braseth helps Abraham Sanchez and Pedro Ifante of Crookston, Minn., with a Christmas present destined for Texas. (Jesse Trelstad/Forum News Service)2 / 2

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — An unusual calm filled the post office in Grand Forks midday Wednesday. A few people waited in line to ship packages or buy supplies, but absent were the endless lines normally associated with last-minute holiday mailing.

Lead sales clerk Bev Cornelius said she was surprised by the slow traffic. "We thought it was going to be today," she said, referring to the office's busiest day of the season. "Today is the cutoff for priority mail making it for the holiday."

Cornelius said Monday was the post office's busiest day, with scores of customers coming in to ship packages after spending the weekend shopping.

Peter Nowacki, a regional spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service, said nationwide the company processed about 611 million pieces of mail Monday. The Postal Service will have delivered an estimated 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year's, up 12 percent from 2015. He said this is the fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth.

The Postal Service began delivering packages on Sundays during the holiday season a few years ago to help spread out the high volume.

"It helps keep so many packages off the workroom floor," Cornelius said. "Carriers, normally when they come in on a Monday, they're just swamped with so many packages."

Special delivery

Nowacki said the Postal Service delivers about 5 million packages each Sunday in December.

The Grand Forks office normally has three to four clerks helping customers ship packages, but it adds one to two additional clerks during the holidays. Cornelius said the Postal Service also hires extra carriers and help at the processing plants.

She said customers have been patient despite the busy days. "They come in here expecting a big long line, and they know they're going to have to wait," she said. "But we have more staff at Christmastime, so usually the line goes pretty good."