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WASHINGTON — Santa Claus has lifted off from the North Pole carrying gifts to children around the world, according to a spokeswoman at U.S. Northern Command.

Early Saturday morning (Christmas Eve, of course) frenetic activity was picked up by satellites over the North Pole. Upon closer inspection it was determined that Santa Claus and several elves were feeding the reindeer and loading up his sleigh for a very busy night.

How the satellites saw this is super secret, but they’re so sensitive that “the satellites detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with no problem,” NORTHCOM spokeswoman 1st Lt. Jody Vazquez said.

U.S. Northern Command, from its North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) center in Colorado, will track Santa’s progress through the day and night.

But it won’t be easy — Santa moves really fast!

He has to, if he’s going to deliver to all the boys and girls around the world in one night.

“We estimate that Santa’s max speed is faster than starlight — also known as Christmas Eve velocity,” said Vazquez.

“NORAD tracks Santa from liftoff at the North Pole to the South Pacific, and across the globe through Asia, India, Africa, Europe, and into North America; he even travels to Antartica!” Vazquez said.

NORAD first picked up Santa on its radar 50 years ago, in 1955.

Col. Harry Shoup received the first “Santa” call on Christmas Eve, 1955. Realizing what had happened, Shoup had his staff check radar data to see if there was any indication of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Indeed there were signs of Santa and children who called were given an update on Santa’s position.

Thus, the tradition was born. With our friends in Canada, NORAD has tracked him ever since.

“While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15 or F-16 get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer — Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph,” Vazquez said. “Even though Santa flies faster than any jet fighter, Santa actually slows down for us to escort him.”

Children who want to peek in on Santa’s progress can have mom or dad log onto

What about all the boys and girls who lost their homes because of hurricanes?

Santa is magic.

“That is one of Santa’s secrets,” Vazquez said.


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