NORAD: Santa should be in Alabama about 8 p.m. Christmas EvePublished 11:00pm Friday, December 21, 2012
Lt. Alain Blondin has it on good authority that Pike County children should be in bed by about 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
That’s because Blondin is an official Santa Tracker as part of his work at the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Blondin, an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, has helped track Santa for the last two years. When he’s not on the clock watching the skies to help protect Canadian and United States residents, Blondin volunteers to help monitor the infrared light from Rudolph’s nose in case children call to ask where Santa is.
“Our job, 356 days a year, is to scan the skies and identify everything in our airspace,” Blondin said. “We have infrared satellites and a geosatellite in space and can look at infrared signals everywhere in the world. But on Christmas Eve, an infrared signal comes right out of Rudolph’s nose and we can track it from space.”
The ability to track Rudolph means Blondin and others at NORAD can tell where Santa Claus is while he makes his journey around the world to visit good boys and girls on the night before Christmas.
Blondin said Santa is scheduled to make his way through Alabama beginning about 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. However, if children are traveling to see grandparents, or aren’t home by 8, Santa knows that. Blondin said Santa Claus really does know if children are sleeping, or awake, or if they’ve been bad or good.
“Santa has a list to track all the children who have been good. His intelligence gathering capabilities are outstanding,” Blondin said. “He knows what is happening in every situation and acts appropriately.”
That’s a strong statement coming from a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy.
NORAD hasn’t always tracked Santa though. The partnership between Santa and the U.S. military started in 1955 when an advertisement for Sears Roebuck & Co. in Colorado Springs, Colo. accidentally listed Santa’s number incorrectly. Instead of the number ringing through to the jolly man in red, it reached the Continental Air Defense Command, now NORAD.
Col. Harry Shoup was the senior officer on watch that night and answered the phone expecting word of a national crisis. Instead, he heard the sweet voice of a little girl asking if he was Santa.
Shoup explained to the child he wasn’t Santa, but he had his staff check the same radar our military uses for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Shoup then instructed his staff to visit with any children who called that Christmas Eve with updates on Santa’s travels.
The Santa tracking tradition was born.
Blondin is one of about 1,200 volunteers who will be answering phone calls and emails for 25 hours leading up to Christmas as NORAD tracks Santa around the world. Because of expanding technology, NORAD now tracks the big guy through 227 countries and provides a tracking website in eight languages. And the entire service is free to children and children at heart.
Last year, volunteers answered about 102,000 phone calls and about 18.9 million people visited noradsanta.org to play games and find out more about Santa’s plans.
If you are on the go for Christmas, there’s even a smartphone app to track Santa Claus. Information is available at noradsanta.org.
Blondin said all emails and phone calls to 977-HI-NORAD are answered as swiftly as possible, but there are lots of children who call, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a few tries to get through.
“We are here for the children, but this tradition is special to us, too,” Blondin said. “The enthusiasm from children is infectious and we always leave with a big smile on our faces.”