Let the last-minute holiday rush begin.
Beaufort County post offices were crowded with people scurrying to mail cards and packages in time for Christmas delivery.
Beaufort postmaster Rick Reed said the Charles Street branch was "extremely busy" most of the day as people lined up to get last-minute mailings on their way.
"Primarily these are everyday folks trying to get (packages) to their relatives and everyone else," he said.
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Branches in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island also had persistent lines all day Wednesday.
The U.S. Postal Service recommends customers mail first-class items today to ensure they'll arrive in time to be opened Christmas morning. Packages sent after today can still make it, but it will cost you more.
"People can mail Priority Mail on Friday (for Christmas arrival)," said Columbia-based USPS spokesman Harry Spratlin. "For the ultimate procrastinator, the 22nd is the deadline for Express mail," which is delivered through Christmas Day.
The postal service, which lost nearly $16 billion in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, projects it will deliver 17.9 billion pieces of mail between Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the year, it expects to deliver about 155 billion items.
"This is a record-breaking year for Christmas mailing," Spratlin said. "We are expecting a 20-percent increase, and most of that is due to the explosion in online retailing."
At private shippers such as UPS, volume also spiked just before the Christmas holiday. The company expects today to be the "peak day" of the 2012 season with 28 million deliveries.
"We are currently in the middle of peak week here at UPS, where we expect to deliver more than 135 million packages Dec. 17 to Dec. 21," spokesman David Herndon said in an email.
Reed, the Beaufort postmaster, says customers come in spurts, but he tries to keep every terminal manned so packages get processed quickly.
"The lines are longer, but we staff up to make sure we can get customers in and get them out in a timely fashion," he said.
Bluffton resident Mackenzie Fitzpatrick, mailing a large package to a friend in New Zealand, was among those who waited until Wednesday to visit the post office.
Her biggest complaint was the $50 price of sending the box to the other side of the world. But the lines at the Bluffton branch, while longer than usual, weren't too bad.
"It gets pretty long in there," she said, "but it goes quickly."