Santa tracker news flash: Santa's sleigh spotted at top of world

The Santa Tracker for 2011: Santa coming to town

The Santa tracker makes it official, boys and girls: Santa Claus is coming to town.

NORAD's Santa-tracking operation says that Santa One, Santa's reindeer-powered sleigh, has been spotted at the top of the world. The sleigh easily scaled Mount Everest and then zoomed over the Taj Mahal in India, according to NORAD.

Santa's route can't be predicted, NORAD says, but he usually arrives between 9 p.m. and midnight, traveling from east to west.

For the most accurate, up-to-date information, boys and girls (and adults) can follow Santa One's journey online with the Santa Tracker at NORADsanta.org, while Mom and Dad enjoy some eggnog, spiked or otherwise.

Now, kids, you may be wondering, "Who is this NORAD guy and how do I get his job when I grow up"? NORAD is actually a bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo. It's responsible for scanning the skies above North America, providing aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada.

That role expanded to include "official tracker of Santa" -- an enviable gig indeed -- nearly 60 years ago. It started by accident: A department store ran an ad that included a phone number for kids who wanted to call Santa and remind him of his or her gift requests. But the phone number was wrong. 

When the first call rolled in to NORAD's hot line looking for "Santa," the then-director of operations, Col. Harry Shoup, thought it was a prank. But then another call came in. And another, and another.

"The staff realized what was happening and started taking the phone calls," NORAD spokesman Lt. Commander Bill Lewis told the Los Angeles Times. "Ever since then, we have taken on the important responsibility of tracking Santa."

"We track Santa live as he travels north to south, moving across the time zones as he moves across the globe," Lewis said. "Santa cams will capture him at various points flying over the city and delivering the gifts."

Kids who want to call in to check on Santa's progress or to make a last few adjustments to their holiday list can call (877) Hi-NORAD (446-6723). More than 1,250 people  -- you might call them Santa's elves -- come in on Christmas Eve and stay through early Christmas morning to help field calls.

Kids, and grownups, can also keep up with NORAD's Santa tracker on Google +, Facebook and Twitter.

And finally, there's this: Lewis says there's always a Grinch-y type who deserves a lump of coal for grousing about the government spending its time on the Santa tracker. He would like that person to know that partners, such as Google Earth, and the call takers all volunteer their time -- and they do it for free.

"Tracking Santa really fits in to what we do, monitoring U.S. and Canadian airspace," he added. "We’re looking to the skies of Canada and the United States, so if Santa is flying around, it gives us the situational awareness that it’s him and it’s not a threat to the United States."

Merry Christmas, everyone!

RELATED:

PHOTOS: Pretty holiday lights on display

Santa Timeline: Before he was cheery and chubby

Breaking news: Santa's sleigh gets clearance from FAA

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Screen grab of Santa Tracker, via NORAD.

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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