Sorry, Grinch. Virus won’t stop NORAD from tracking Santa

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Children of the world can rest easy. The global pandemic won’t stop them from tracking Santa Claus’ progress as he delivers gifts around the globe on Christmas Eve.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has announced that NORAD will track Santa on Dec. 24, just as it has done for 65 years.

But there will be some changes: Not every child will be able to get through to a volunteer at NORAD’s call center to check on Santa’s whereabouts, as they have in years before.

Normally, 150-160 volunteers crowd into a conference room at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, taking two-hour shifts to answer the phones as eager children call to see if Santa and his sleigh have reached their rooftops.

Altogether, 1,500 people over 20 hours have participated in the call center in the past, fielding more than 130,000 phone calls, beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern time on Christmas Eve.

This year, due to safety restrictions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of volunteers has been drastically cut to what NORAD expects will be fewer than 10 people per shift.

“We understand this is a time-honored tradition, and we know undoubtedly there is going to be some disappointment,” said NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter. “But we’re trying to keep it safe for everyone involved.”

So, some callers may be able to once again get through to a member of the military or other volunteer when they dial the NORAD Tracks Santa toll-free number, 1-877-Hi-NORAD. But others will get a recorded update on Santa’s current location.

Besides the call center, the NORAD Tracks Santa website — noradsanta.org — as well as social media pages, Amazon Alexa, Onstar and a new mobile app will still be available with up-to-the-minute details on Santa’s location. A social media team will operate from a separate conference room at the base.

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