Is He Here Yet? Air Force Tracks Santa for Kids

By: CBS.com
By: CBS.com

Volunteers at a Colorado Air Force base monitoring maps showing Santa Claus' progress are several hours into their goodwill mission and have answered more than 24,000 phone calls from children wanting to know everything from old Saint Nick's age, to how reindeer fly, to when they can expect their presents.

Phones have been ringing nonstop Monday at Peterson Air Force Base, headquarters of the North American Aerospace Command's annual Santa-tracking operation.

Dozens of helpers at NORAD are taking calls and tracking Santa's location on large projection screens. They're posting updates for nearly 1.2 million Facebook fans and 104,000 Twitter followers.

But NORAD has some fresh competition: Google has unveiled a new Santa tracker this year. As CNET reports, Google Maps engineers developed a new route algorithm that will let users track Saint Nick's journey on a special Santa Tracker page.

"Google has been tracking Santa via Google Earth since 2004," CNET's Don Reisinger notes. "This is the first time the company has launched a broader Santa Tracker tool that competes with NORAD's perennial favorite."

The NORAD maps show Santa is in Italy and heading northwest. He has delivered more than 3 billion presents so far, according to the "NORAD Tracks Santa" website.

Volunteers started taking calls at 4 a.m. Mountain time on Monday and will keep updating until 3 a.m. on Christmas morning.

NORAD Tracks Santa began in 1955 when a newspaper ad listed the wrong phone number for kids to call Santa. Callers ended up getting the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor, and a tradition was born.

Following is a sampling of calls received at the base:

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GIFTS IN HEAVEN: One little boy from Missouri phoned in to ask what time Santa delivered toys to heaven, said volunteer Jennifer Eckels, who took the call. The boy's mother got on the line to explain that his sister had died this year.

"I think Santa headed there first," Eckels told him.

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IS HE THERE YET?: James Solano took a call from a young girl and her father in Bangkok, asking when Santa would arrive. Solano checked the map and said it wouldn't be long.

"The dad was saying, `We've got to get to bed soon,"' said Solano, an Army colonel.

"It was kind of neat," he said. "They were very thrilled."

SANTA KNOWS: Glenn Barr took a call from a 10-year-old who wasn't sure if he would be sleeping at his mom's house or his dad's and was worried about whether Santa would find him.

"I told him Santa would know where he was and not to worry," Barr said.

Another child asked if he was on the nice list or the naughty list.

"That's a closely guarded secret, and only Santa knows," Barr replied.

THE REAL DEAL: A young boy called to ask if Santa was real.

Air Force Maj. Jamie Humphries, who took the call, said, "I'm 37 years old, and I believe in Santa, and if you believe in him as well, then he must be real."

The boy turned from the phone and yelled to others in the room, "I told you guys he was real!"

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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