Malls And Roads Busy As Christmas And Hanukkah Near

With the holidays fast approaching, it's crunch time and the pressure is on to check off all wish lists.

"I just don't have a lot of time to shop," Andrew Salvio of New Britain said Friday as he scurried out of Westfarms mall to unload a handful of newly purchased gifts. He would soon make his way back into the mall to grab "just a couple more things."

Like Salvio, people across Connecticut were in a dash to the finish, rushing around Friday to get the last gift, or package, before traveling to settle down with family and friends.

At Westfarms on Friday afternoon, officers routed shoppers through nearly full parking lots. Long lines formed outside the larger luxury stores.

"It's very busy right now," said Amanda Sirica, a spokeswoman for the mall. She noted the parking lots, which hold up to 6,500, were reaching capacity, but there was still space for more shoppers. "People shouldn't be too worried."

Some lines were developing in the popular stores and Sirica said about 20 or so children were waiting for a last-minute seat on Santa's lap. The mood among shoppers was positive, she said.

"You're going to expect crowds one day before Christmas but everyone's been very welcoming and very nice," said Sharyl Belton, who drove to Westfarms from Hamden even though she finished most of her shopping online. "It's just exciting and there's lots of sights to see."

The holiday spirit was plentiful said Belton, and John Mocadlo of Milford agreed.

"I don't understand how people start their shopping in November. It's all about the seasonal spirit around Christmas day," he said.

Guy Perry, the store manager at Disney said, "Santa is out shopping today." His store saw plenty of traffic and he thought it was because of the days the holidays fell on.

"I think Christmas falling on a Sunday really caught people by surprise," he said.

For those whose last-minute shopping was done online, delivery trucks headed their way Friday at a record pace.

"The peak shipping season is progressing according to UPS's plans, and as we had expected. UPS is delivering a record number of packages in the U.S. at a level near double our normal daily volume of 16 million packages," UPS spokesman Matthew O'Connor, said.

He said that during the week of Dec. 19, UPS expected to deliver about 30 million packages per day.

FedEx said in a statement Friday that it anticipated "another record peak holiday shipping season," with each of the four Mondays during the season expected to be "among the busiest in our company's history."

And the postal service has been experiencing much of the same. Spokeswoman Christine Dugas said that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the postal service expected to deliver 16 billion cards, letters and packages and millions of those would be in Connecticut.

"We projected a 12 percent increase in packages and we are absolutely on target. Nationally, we expect to deliver about 750 million packages this holiday season, many of those on Sundays, more than 5 million on each Sunday in December," Dugas said.

Delivery drivers won't be the only people crowding the roads ahead of the holiday.

AAA estimated that about 4 million people across New England will hop in their vehicles and drive to friends and family to celebrate.

Through the afternoon Friday, the Department of Transportation reported no major problems or delays on highways, officials said.

State troopers said they would be out in force to make sure roads remained safe.

Travel through Bradley International Airport was free of issues Friday morning, spokeswoman Alisa Sisic said. That said, officials still warned travels to schedule a little extra time.

"The key is to give yourself extra travel time and to plan ahead," Kevin A. Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, said in a statement. "Our dedicated airport team will do everything we can to make your travel through the airport as hassle-free as possible."

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