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Santa Claus undaunted by Arctic blast, US military say

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By Keith Coffmann

DENVER (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – U.S. military officials have assured anxious children that the Arctic blast and snowstorm that devastated U.S. air traffic this week won’t stop Santa from making his annual Christmas Eve flight.

“We face a polar vortex from time to time, but Santa lives year-round in one at the North Pole, so he’s used to this weather,” said Air Force Staff Sergeant Ben Wiseman, a spokesman for North American deadpan. Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, which tracks the Christmas flight.

For 67 years, NORAD, a joint U.S.-Canadian military command headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has provided images and updates on the legendary figure’s worldwide journey along with his primary job of monitoring the air defenses and issue aerospace and maritime warning messages.

The Santa locator tradition originated from a 1955 misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper of a department store telephone number that children could call and speak to Santa. The number listed went to what was then known as the Continental Air Defense Command.

A sympathetic officer took calls from the youngsters and assured them that Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas or Saint Nick, was airborne and on time to deliver presents to good girls and boys, flying aboard his reindeer sleigh .

Santa doesn’t file a formal flight plan, so the military is never quite sure when he’ll take off, nor his exact path, NORAD’s Wiseman said, even though Santa’s tracker goes on the air at 4 a.m. EST (09:00 GMT) on Friday on the NORAD website.

Once the merry old elf’s main reindeer, Rudolph, lights up its shiny red nose, military personnel can pinpoint its location using infrared sensors, Wiseman said.

US and Canadian fighter jet pilots provide him with a courtesy escort over North America, and Santa slows down to greet them, he added.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Philippa Fletcher)

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