‘Suspicious’ powder just trail marker
December 24, 2002
Reports of a suspicious white powdered substance caused police and firefighters to close down a five-square-block area of the north side and evacuate the Lincoln Park Zoo Tuesday.
But the substance turned out to be a harmless flour or similar powder used to mark a jogging course, the city’s fire commissioner said.
More than 100 police officers and firefighters, some wearing special suits to deal with hazardous materials, were called into the area.
Streets were blocked off. Several entrances and exits to Lake Shore Drive, one of the principal highways in the city, were closed. The public was warned by authorities to stay away.
Field testing equipment gave readings indicating that the substance “could be anything in the anthrax areas,” said Fire Commissioner James Joyce.
“But they were false positives,” he added.
“It’s a completely inert substance,” Joyce said at a news conference. “It’s scattered over a three- or four-block area.” Members of a running club had used the powder to paint arrows to show the runners were to go, he said.
Asked if, in the current security atmosphere, people should be putting flour on the ground to mark things, Joyce said, “How about red flour?” Then he added, “This will alert them that they need to think about what they are doing.”
“We’re satisfied with the results,” Joyce added. “We do what we have to do. We respond and protect the citizens.”
Eric Dawoudi, 26, a DePaul University student whose apartment overlooks a zoo entrance, said he was blocked from his home by a police officer.
Nevertheless, a police officer would still not allow him into the neighborhood.
“I told him I heard on the radio that everything was okay. He said, ‘You believe everything you hear on the radio?”‘
Copyright 2002 Associated Press.