(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
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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