There’s help in tracking Santa

Published 8:20pm Saturday, December 22, 2012

As Santa bellows out a merry “Ho, Ho, Ho,” through the wintery skies Christmas Eve, children will have the opportunity to track Santa’s journey through a special radar that picks up on the bright red glow of Rudolph’s nose.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has tracked Saint Nick on his biggest night of the year since 1955. Through advanced tracking technologies and strategic placements of “Santa cams,” the NORAD Santa Tracker can identify exactly where Santa is the night of Dec. 24.

“It truly has become a worldwide phenomenon,” said Lt. Al Blondin, public affairs director for NORAD.

Blondin said the NORAD Santa Tracker phenomenon didn’t begin intentionally.

“It all began with a typographical error in a Sears and Roebuck advertisement in a local newspaper,” Blondin said.

The advertisement displayed a number children could call Christmas Eve night to get the exact location of Santa. However, the number given was misprinted and happened to be the number for CONAD, Commander-in-Chief’s operations hotline, which was the precursor to NORAD.

The director of operations at the time, Col. Harry Shoup, instead of turning away the children had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole.

After that Christmas Eve night in 1955, Blondin said a tradition was born.

Now, Blondin said the tracker system has evolved so much, that last year the hotline, now 1-877-HI-NORAD, received more than 102,000 phone calls Christmas Eve and the website, which can be viewed in eight different languages, has received 18.9 million unique visitors.

“It has definitely become a worldwide thing,” he said.

Through visiting the website, or calling the hotline, children can receive the exact location of Santa and find out when he will be visiting certain locations.

“They can speak to a live operator who has access to all the data and will give them an update on Santa’s position,” Blondin said. And NORAD is able to track Santa’s sleigh by identifying the infrared emission of Rudolph’s bright red nose.

After Col. Shoup passed away in 2009, Blondin said there was no doubt about the Santa Tracker living on and providing joy for children around the world Christmas Eve.

“Each and every day throughout the year, all of us here at NORAD work diligently to defend and protect our nations,” Shoup said previously regarding the Santa Tracker. “It is an honor for us to take one day each year to expand our missions to share goodwill and holiday spirit across the globe through the NORAD Tracks Santa program.”

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