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The Track Santa Center, known on less important days as the Leadership Development Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, opens early on Christmas Eve morning. It invites inquiries by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or, for a live operator, by phone at 1-877-HI-NORAD.
This year's arrangement with Microsoft replaces Google's tracking collaboration in years past, for reasons that adults can only surmise. Norad has said that it and Google have "mutually agreed to go in new directions."
19 Million Visitors Last Year
To its credit, Google has avoided the urge to sulk and instead expanded its own Santa Tracker site, at 'google.com/santatracker/, which offers various apps for Google+, Android, the Chrome browser and Google Earth, as well as Santa-themed games and an online chat with Mr. Kringle.
With the thoroughness one hopes NORAD is using for its other missions, the agency has said that, on the big night, Arctic experts will monitor ice floes and shipping lanes near the North Pole and meteorologists will relay weather information. Satellite operators will use the infrared beacon on the sleigh, otherwise known as Rudolph's nose, and radar stations in Canada, Alaska and on Aegis cruisers will track Claus' whereabouts.
The annual effort now has a massive audience that ensures Santa will never again fly undetected. Last year, for instance, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site scored nearly 19 million visitors from 220 countries and territories, more than a million Facebook users became fans, and, on Christmas Eve, 1200 volunteers took 102,000 phone calls and answered 8,000 emails. Some of the calls, NORAD said, are from children wanting to make sure Santa will visit their military parents stationed overseas.
This year promises to beat those marks, with the apps having been downloaded 1.6 million times so far and the Twitter feed having over 95,000 followers.