Some 1,200 volunteers answers phone calls and e-mails about Santa at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., during December.
OK, this isn't exactly local, but who doesn't want to know when Santa's arriving? At least to watch out for those speeding reindeer!
We received this missive from North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., informing us that they were on the job — to track Santa's flight path and warn off 747s. Some may say it's a trivial waste of taxpayer money, but it must be nice for them to worry about jolly overweight elves rather than ICBMs for a change. (And it's a great cover for sweeping for UFOs and North Koreans.) But almost all of this is done by volunteers and cheers to them.
Besides, we love the idea that NORAD, created to protect us from nuclear war and communist devastation, has a sense of whimsy. They've been doing this for 55 years; why stop now? (We remember being glued to a black & white RCA as a renowned newsanchor posted the latest update on Santa's flight.)
We do have one quibble. According to the video below, Santa totally blew off New England last year! He went straight from St. Louis to London. What's up with that?
Now you can track Santa along Google Earth by Twitter and Facebook, and there's a whole website (in seven different languages) with games and information. We plan on getting in on the fun, too, by adding @noradsanta to our news Mashup on the home page.
Also, beginning at midnight, Mountain Standard Time, on Dec. 24, visitors to the website can watch Santa as he prepares his sleigh, checks his list, and goes through all of his preparations to ensure he has a successful journey.
As soon as Santa takes off from the North Pole, children can also track him with up-to-the-minute updates on Google Maps and Google Earth through the website. You can phone and e-mail for updates from trackers beginning at 2 a.m. MST (4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) on Dec. 24 until 3 a.m. MST (5 a.m. EST) Dec. 25. Children of all ages can then call the NTS toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's some program background from NORAD:
The NORAD Tracks Santa program began in 1955 after a phone call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The call was from a local youngster who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a local newspaper advertisement. The commander on duty who answered the phone that night gave the youngster the information requested — the whereabouts of Santa. This began the tradition of tracking Santa, a tradition that was carried on by NORAD when it was formed in 1958.
The NORAD Tracks Santa program has grown immensely since first presented on the Internet in 1998. The website receives millions of unique visitors from hundreds of countries and territories around the world. In addition, a live Operations Center is occupied for 25 hours with more than 1,200 volunteers each year who receive hundreds of thousands of phone calls and e-mails from families around the world.
The NORAD Tracks Santa program could not be carried out with the superb assistance of numerous corporate sponsors. New to this year’s program are Air Canada, Marine Toys for Tots, the Federal Aviation Administration, Colorado Springs School District 11, the Newseum, and Unified TelData. Our returning sponsors include Google, Booz Allen Hamilton, Verizon, GlobeLink Foreign Language Center, Meshbox, Naturally Santa Inc, Time Warner, Analytical Graphics, Inc., PCI Broadband Inc., OnStar, Avaya Government Solutions, 5 Star Bank, First Choice Awards and Gifts and Santa's Traveling Workshop Foundation.