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 those 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.
The threats on the 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 continued outside U.S. embassies in the Middle East also stirred nervous tension among some students.
The first threat came around 8:35 a.m. to the University of Texas from a man claiming to belong to al-Qaida, officials said. The caller claimed 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 to immediately “get as far away as possible” in emergency text messages.
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.”
Hiram College received an emailed bomb threat about 4 p.m. and ordered everyone on campus to evacuate. Hiram spokesman Tom Ford said safety teams with bomb-sniffing dogs checked “room by room, building by building” on campus, which is about 35 miles southeast of Cleveland. About 1,300 students are enrolled.