SALT LAKE CITY – Before visions of sugarplums dance in their heads, Utah children can keep an eye on Old Saint Nick’s journey around the globe tonight.
For more than 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa on Christmas Eve and providing children and anyone young at heart with up-to-date information about Santa’s whereabouts.
U.S. Army Capt. Ruth Castro says NORAD uses the latest technology to pin down the exact location of the reindeer-powered sleigh.
“We use a lot of our different military assets,” she says. “We use radars, we use satellites, we use our Santa Cams.
“The good thing is that Rudolph has his red nose, so a lot of our infrared stuff can detect that. So, that’s how we’re able to keep track of them.”
Santa’s whereabouts can be tracked online at <a href=”http://noradsanta.org/” target=”parent”>noradsanta.org</a>.
And this year, tracking also is available on smartphones, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The NORAD Tracks Santa program is funded by contributions and staffed by more than 1,200 volunteers.
And Castro says when the sleigh is flying over the United States, fighter jets provide the escort to ensure safety.
“These pilots, they just kind of come up towards Santa while they’re in the North American airspace, and they just kind of guide him through while he’s here,” she says. “And then, they say their hellos and then he’s off.”
NORAD’s Santa-tracking mission began accidentally in 1955 when a department store placed an ad encouraging families to call Santa Claus – with the wrong phone number.
A military colonel answered and instructed his staff to check the radar for indications of Santa making his way from the North Pole. Any child who called was given an update – and that’s how the tradition began.