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Holiday mail volumes are at record levels so far this year, and postal officials have extended hours at local post offices to accommodate the needs of Salt Lake area residents.

The Salt Lake Downtown Station, 230 W. 200 South, will be open Sunday, Dec. 18, from noon to 4 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 24, all Salt Lake post offices will remain open until 3 p.m. Also on Saturday, the Pioneer Postal Store in the ZCMI Center will remain open until 5:30 p.m. The Airport Post Office is open 24 hours a day every day of the year.In addition to Salt Lake's 14 post offices, four full-service holiday post offices located in the Valley Fair, Cottonwood, Fashion Place and South Towne malls, will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. through Friday, Dec. 23.

Since Thanksgiving, the Salt Lake General Mail Facility has postmarked 13.8 million cards and letters. That's 3.4 percent, or 452,000, more cards and letters than last year.

"We're postmarking over a million cards and letters every night," said Salt Lake plant manager Sam Ruden, who noted the busiest night of the year is yet to come. "The Monday the week before Christmas is traditionally the biggest mailing day of the year. We expect to postmark more than a million and a half cards and letters Dec. 19."

The number of holiday packages has also jumped. Ruden said the volume of parcels is up 26 percent over last year. He advised mailing as soon as possible because poor weather can close highways and airports during the holiday season, making transportation difficult.

Postal officials suggest that parcels be reinforced with packing tape. Do not use string on the outside of the package because the string may become entangled in mail processing equipment. They also suggest that a piece of paper with the sender's return address be enclosed on the inside of the package.