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Where's Santa? Area police keep track

A document labeled "Naughty" and some incriminating hoofprints have led authorities to believe North Pole reindeer, possibly part of a reconnaissance team, came through the area shortly before Christmas, according to Worthington Police Det. Sgt. Kevin Flynn. This photo marks the evidence officers found in the snow. (Justine Wettschreck/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- As area law enforcement officials prepared for the anticipated blizzard, putting contingency plans in place and getting ready for the worst, several were surprised to receive calls from Santa Claus or his representatives, who were preparing contingency plans as well.

Rock County Sheriff Evan Verbrugge reported a call from Mr. Claus himself, who was concerned about the possibility of being trapped by the weather somewhere along his route Christmas Eve.

"He was checking to see if there would be accommodations appropriate for himself, his sleigh and his reindeer," Verbrugge stated. "I told him I could get him a room at the Armory."

Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening volunteered a room at a Worthington hotel, but Cottonwood County Sheriff Jason Purrington thought a room at the Guardian Inn in Windom would be more appropriate, since it would provide a garage for the sleigh and reindeer.

"It's important to care for the livestock in a storm such as this," Purrington explained.

Worthington Police Det. Sgt. Kevin Flynn reported the Worthington Police Department had volunteered a residence with home-cooked meals, considering Santa's importance. He also felt a heated garage for sleigh and reindeer would be easy to locate.

Recognizing the honor of hosting the beloved Mr. Claus, Verbrugge said he felt his own children would be happy to give up their bedrooms for the jolly man and keep the reindeer and sleigh in their back yard.

Wilkening said Claus was also tossing around the idea of delivering presents via UPS and FedEx, but luckily none of the contingency plans had to be implemented, as Claus was able to use Christmas magic to keep his flight safe and on time.

Reports indicate several sightings and other evidence have led authorities to believe Santa's flight went off without a hitch.

"We investigated unusual hoof prints in the area and confirmed the tracks to be those of reindeer," Flynn reported. "It appeared to be some kind of reconnaissance effort, as documents were found in the vicinity of the tracks with the headings 'Naughty' and 'Nice.'"

Flynn said local conservation officer and reindeer expert Gary Nordseth was consulted by the police department.

"Nordseth confirmed the tracks and the writing on the documents as definitely those of North Pole Reindeer," Flynn added.

Sleigh tracks were found in Luverne, where it appears Santa stopped to admire the veterans memorial near the Rock County Courthouse. Tracks found along several Murray County roads seem to indicate St. Nick opted to stop flying for a bit and engage in the local snowmobilers' habit of "ditch-banging" for a short time.

In Pipestone County, a deputy reported a late-night sighting near a rural farmhouse. At first the deputy thought he was seeing shooting stars through the snow, but soon realized his headlights were reflecting off Santa's sleigh, which was parked in the front yard of the residence.

A Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force agent in Worthington who preferred not to use his name said he was awakened in the late night hours of Christmas Eve by a clatter. Upon investigating, he saw a sleigh lifting off his neighbor's roof.

The Slayton Police Department indicated they had received several calls from people who were pulled reluctantly from sleep by shouts of "Ho Ho Ho!" Dispatchers throughout the Daily Globe coverage area said several calls were received regarding suspicious noises. Investigation into the noises pointed to evidence of Santa coming and going from residences.

Officers from both the Jackson and Fulda Police Departments reported milk and cookies left out in residential homes had gone missing overnight, as had several carrots and a can of Sierra Mist.

None of the citizens are looking to press charges, Fulda Police Chief Paul Kenney said, as the items had been left out for Santa and his reindeer. In one home, a missing bubble pack of Pepto-Bismol pills was cause for some concern until officers realized that Santa had a bit of an upset tummy from eating a large amount of goodies and had left a 50-cent piece to cover the cost of the pills.