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Santa NORAD Tracker 2012 follows St. Nick's Christmas Eve trek

1:54 PM, Dec 24, 2012   |    comments
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(WTSP/USA TODAY) -- Come Donner! Come Blitzen! Come North American Aerospace Defense Command!

That's right. This Christmas, NORAD, the premier U.S.-Canadian air defense directorate, is once again using its super high-tech tracking equipment to keep tabs on jolly old Saint Nick.

Visit the NORAD Santa site

For 365 days of the year, NORAD is dead serious about tracking the skies over North America. But beginning at 2 a.m. Monday, the generals and air-sovereignty commanders will be telling Virginia that, yes, there is a Santa Claus. And they've got the satellite tracking of his sleigh to prove it.

This is the organization's 57th year of providing children with up-to-the-minute telemetry on Santa's whereabouts.

Calls to 1-877-Hi-NORAD will be answered by one of more than 1,200 volunteers who crowd into the call center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. For many it's a family Christmas tradition, says NORAD's Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis. Last year, the volunteers logged 80,000 calls, he says.

Each year at www.noradsanta.org, families can track Santa's flight across the world - live. 

In past years, NORAD used Google Earth, but this year, Santa can be tracked with Microsoft Bing's mapping service.

There's also a second-by-second Countdown to Track Santa clock. For kids who can't wait, a Kid's Countdown Village has links to holiday facts and North Pole-themed games. Clicking the house labeled 22 in the village opens up a "Super Top Secret NORAD File" featuring technical details of Santa's sleigh and reindeer.

The calls have been a tradition since 1955. According to the story told by the Air Force's Col. Harry Shoup, the local Sears ran an ad that year in Colorado Springs telling local children they could call a number to hear where Santa was.

But the number listed in the ad was one digit off and instead the red hotline phone rang at what was then Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's precursor. 

"It was kids calling looking to talk to Santa," Lewis says. In the spirit of Christmas, "instead of telling them they had the wrong number, Shoup told them where Santa was, and that's how the tradition started."

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