NORAD preps for another year tracking Santa
The attention of the North American Aerospace Defense Command may be trained on North Korea or other hotspots around the world at the moment, but the men and women of NORAD won’t be too busy to track Santa this year.
NORAD’s Santa-tracking website, www.noradsanta.org , launches Friday as the crew at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo., gears up to follow the big man in a red suit on his big night.
NORAD claims its constellation of satellites use infrared radar to track the heat signature from Rudolph’s red nose. Location information is then shared with fighter pilots who often escort Santa’s sleigh in North American airspace. The Navy and Coast Guard patrol the waters below the flight path, and hi-tech Santa Cameras mounted around the world capture photos of his journey.
Air Force personnel have been tracking Santa since 1955 when a department store printed the wrong number in a newspaper ad for children to call to speak to Santa. Instead of ringing at the North Pole, the number printed in the paper rang the red phone in front of the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. Col. Harry Shoup was on duty that night and knew the red phone only rang when the Pentagon or the general was calling. Shoup picked up the phone and, after a moment of silence, heard a small voice ask, “Are you really Santa Claus?”
Shoup played along, he said in an interview posted in 2009 after he had died.
NORAD was formed in 1958 and has carried on the tradition for nearly 60 years. NORAD told The Associated Press last year that 1,500 volunteers answered nearly 141,000 phone calls and more than 2,800 emails in 2015 .
The website will feature games, activities and a countdown until Christmas Eve. Then, starting at 2:01 a.m. Dec. 24, visitors to the site will be able to watch Santa prepare for his flight and follow Old Saint Nick as he traverses the world.
Starting at 6 a.m., people can call NORAD at 1-877-HI-NORAD or email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask where Santa is. There are NORAD Santa tracking apps available in the Apple and Google Play stores and Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and OnStar will tell users Santa’s location.
Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.