All-clear after bomb threats clear campuses in Texas and North Dakota
By JIM VERTUNO Associated Press September 14, 2012 11:00AM
Updated: September 14, 2012 3:51PM
Tens of thousands of people streamed off university campuses in Texas and North Dakota on Friday after telephoned bomb threats prompted warnings to students and faculty to get away as quickly as possible.
Both campuses eventually were deemed safe and reopened by early afternoon.
Authorities were trying to determine whether the threats were related.
“Through a variety of sources, we are very confident our campus is safe going forward,” William Powers Jr., president of the University of Texas at Austin, said after delivering an all-clear message shortly after noon.
The university — which is just north of the Texas state capitol — has about 51,000 students and 22,000 employees.
It got a call around 8:35 a.m. from a man claiming to be with al-Qaida who said he had placed bombs all over the Austin campus and that they would go off in 90 minutes.
All UT buildings were evacuated at 9:50 a.m. as a precaution.
The university reopened all buildings by noon. But classes were canceled for the rest of the day because of the tumult.
North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani said 20,000 people were evacuated from his school’s main and downtown campuses in Fargo after the school received its threat.
FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said a call that included a “threat of an explosive device” came in around 9:45 a.m., but he declined to give further details.
He said the agency was trying to determine if the two campus threats were related.
NDSU buildings reopened at about 1 p.m., said Bresciani, adding that the campus had been “deemed safe.”
Graduate student Lee Kiedrowski of Dickinson, N.D., said he was walking on campus just before 10 a.m. when he got a text message telling him students had been ordered to evacuate within 15 minutes.
“The panic button wasn’t triggered quite immediately,” said Kiedrowski, who’s studying infectious disease management and biosecurity. “But there was definitely the thought that we live in a different world now, and with everything that’s going on with the riots at the U.S. embassies in the Middle East, your brain just starts moving. You never really know what’s going on.”
In Texas, campus sirens wailed and cellphones pinged with text messages when the initial alert when out. Students described more confusion than panic as they exited the sprawling campus in what one described as an “orderly but tense” manner. Students said they were directed off campus by university staff.
“One of them said to me ‘get off this campus as soon as possible,’ ” said Elizabeth Gerberich, an 18-year-old freshman from New Jersey.
Also Friday, Valparaiso University in Indiana increased security and posted a warning to students on its website after a vague threat was discovered scrawled in some graffiti. The school says the threat claimed “dangerous and criminal activity” would occur Friday during the university’s daily chapel break.
The FBI and local authorities searched the campus but found nothing suspicious and university spokeswoman Nicole Niemi said classes and other regular activities were continuing as planned.