3 colleges get bomb threats

Bomb threats led to evacuations at three college campuses Friday, including the University of Texas at Austin (above), North Dakota State, and Hiram College in Ohio. Story, A3.
Bomb threats led to evacuations at three college campuses Friday, including the University of Texas at Austin (above), North Dakota State, and Hiram College in Ohio. Story, A3. (THAO NGUYEN / AP)

In Texas and N.D. and a smaller school in Ohio, tens of thousands of students were evacuated.

Posted: September 15, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas - Thousands of people streamed off three college campuses Friday after bomb threats prompted officials to issue evacuation orders for schools in Texas, North Dakota, and Ohio.

The campuses of the University of Texas at Austin and North Dakota State University in Fargo had been deemed safe by early afternoon, and authorities were working to determine whether the threats were related. A third evacuation order for much-smaller Hiram College in northeast Ohio was issued hours later, but lifted Friday night after a sweep found nothing suspicious.

Hiram officials posted a statement on the college's website saying the school had received a bomb threat that it was "taking seriously." Police confirmed the evacuation, and the statement said crews with bomb-sniffing dogs were checking all buildings on the campus about 35 miles southeast of Cleveland, where about 1,300 students are enrolled.

The threats on the much-larger campuses in Texas and North Dakota ended as false alarms after tens of thousands of people followed urgently worded evacuation orders.

Both of those campuses emptied at quick but orderly paces Friday morning, though students acknowledged an air of confusion about what was going on. The threats coming as violent protests outside U.S. embassies in the Middle East also stirred nervous tension among some students, and Texas officials acknowledged that global events were taken into account.

The first threat came about 8:35 a.m. to the University of Texas from a man claiming to belong to al-Qaeda, officials said. The caller said bombs placed throughout campus would go off in 90 minutes, but administrators waited more than an hour before blaring sirens on the campus of 50,000 students and telling them in emergency text messages to immediately "get as far away as possible."

North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani said about 20,000 people left the Fargo school's campuses as part of an evacuation "that largely took place in a matter of minutes." FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said NDSU received a call about 9:45 a.m. that included a "threat of an explosive device."

Police and school officials said the evacuation was as organized as could be expected, with one campus employee describing people as "being North Dakota nice."

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 graffiti.

The FBI and local authorities searched the campus but found nothing suspicious. A university spokeswoman said classes and activities would go on.

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