AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Every person at the University of Texas at Austin was ordered to evacuate campus buildings Friday morning.
Minutes before Noon the university posted information that, “Classes on the Main university campus are cancelled for the remainder of Friday, September 14, 2012. University buildings may be re-entered effective noon today. All University activities except for scheduled classes will resume at 5:00 pm this date.”
Just after Noon university officials held a press conference. UT president William Powers Jr. said as the threat was being evaluated, “We got to the point where we thought the prudent thing to do was to clear all buildings,” he said. “Our evaluation continued but we could not assure ourselves that this was not a credible threat and we couldn’t assure ourselves the other way.”
As of Noon people were being allowed back into the buildings on campus. Powers said, “We are extremely confident that the campus is safe.”
Officials with the university said someone called at 8:35 a.m. claiming to have placed bombs all over campus. The man making the call reportedly had a Middle Eastern accent and claimed to be with al-Qaida.
At the time of the call the man said the bombs would go off in 90 minutes. That would have made the explosions begin at around 10:00 a.m. That time passed with no explosions and hours later no bombs had been found.
Just after 11:00 a.m. UT Austin director of communications, Rhonda Weldon, said, “We are at this time trying to clear the buildings for re-entry and that’s a lot of buildings.”
The university webpage posted the evacuation notice at 9:53 a.m. and had postings on Facebook and Twitter about 10 minutes after that.
Later social media posts by university officials said campus buildings were being checked and cleared and that no decisions had been made concerning afternoon classes and activities.
“We are hopeful that we will have classes later today, but until we get all the buildings clear it’s impossible to say,” Weldon said.
After the threat the homepage of the University of Texas at Austin was being rerouted to www.utexas.edu/emergency.
At that time the page stated clearly — “Evacuation due to threats on campus. Immediately evacuate ALL buildings and get as far away as possible. More information to come.”
UT President Powers was immediately notified after the phone threat was received and it was decided to err on the side of caution and evacuate all buildings. The decision meant between 70,00 and 75,000 individuals were forced to leave campus.
CBS 11 News spoke with Rhonda Weldon on-air. At that time she said, “Campus authorities are directing everyone to get as far away as possible from the buildings.”
PLAY: Rhonda Weldon
At 10:30 a.m. the Austin Police Department sent out a tweet saying, “We are now assisting the University of Texas Police Department with traffic control.” That information came about 15 minutes after area law enforcement said that campus police had not requested their assistance.
Police blocked off roads leading in to the UT campus.
“I was having breakfast in my kitchen and I got a text message on my phone from the emergency line at UT saying that all the buildings were being evacuated and to get as far away as possible from campus,” UT Austin student ‘Jomar’ recalled to NewsRadio 1080 KRLD.
PLAY: UT student ‘Jomar’ on 1080 KRLD
“People seemed pretty calm and pretty just slow about leaving campus. Actually, there was a photograph that a friend of mine said she posted on Facebook of people hanging around just right across the main causeway from campus,” the student said.
The damp and rainy weather in Austin meant many students sought shelter under awnings and at area stores and businesses.
This isn’t the only campus evacuation happening across the country. The campus of North Dakota State University has also been ordered to evacuate. The university, in Fargo, N.D., also received a bomb threat. There’s been no word on if the two threats are related.