Mon, Dec 26, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Santa trackers in US receive record number of calls

SANTA’S COMING TO TOWN:Santa’s NORAD Facebook page had more than 920,000 ‘likes’ by mid-afternoon on Dec. 24, a big increase on Santa’s 716,000 ‘likes’ last year

AP, DENVER

Santa’s trackers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) say they broke records this Christmas Eve.

Volunteers at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado fielded more than 80,000 calls on Saturday evening, breaking its record, as they told the mostly young callers where Santa was flying.

Volunteers at NORAD Tracks Santa said kids started calling at 4am on Saturday to find out where Santa was.

“The phones are ringing like crazy,” Lieutenant Commander Bill Lewis said on Saturday.

NORAD has been telling anxious children about Santa’s whereabouts every year since 1955. That was the year a Colorado Springs newspaper ad invited kids to call Santa on a hotline, but the number had a typo, and dozens of kids wound up talking to the Continental Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD’s predecessor.

The officers on duty played along and began sharing reports on Santa’s progress. It’s now a deep-rooted tradition at NORAD, a joint US-Canada command that monitors the North US skies and seas from a control center at Peterson.

Santa’s first stop in the US came shortly after 9pm in Atlanta, Georgia, Canadian Navy Lieutenant Al Blondin said.

NORAD’s Santa updates are blowing up on social media, too. In addition to the Web site and Facebook and Twitter pages, Santa this year has a new tracking app for smart phones. The app includes the Elf Toss, a game similar to Angry Birds.

Santa’s NORAD Facebook page exceeded 920,000 “likes” by mid-afternoon. Last year, Santa had 716,000 “likes.”

First lady Michelle Obama was among the volunteers for a second year in a row. She took about 10 calls from her family’s holiday vacation in Hawaii. Lewis said Obama’s voice didn’t startle any of the phoning children.

“They all just asked run-of-the-mill stuff. They wanted to know about Santa,” he said.

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