False Alarm Unnerves Lincoln Park – Chicago Tribune

False alarm unnerves Lincoln Park
Bioterror scare turns out to be harmless powder

By Matthew Walberg, Liam Ford and David Heinzmann, Tribune staff reporters
Published December 25, 2002

Christmas Eve and there’s white powder scattered on the ground across Lincoln Park–a quintessentially beautiful Chicago scene.

Unless the powder isn’t snow and no one knows what it is for nearly four hours. Then it’s a potential disaster that evacuates the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory and shuts down a grid of North Side streets, sending emergency crews into overdrive and wreaking havoc on some last-minute shopping efforts.

The piles of white powder that Chicago Park District workers found Tuesday morning turned out to be a harmless mixture of chalk and flour intended to mark running lanes for a foot race that took place in Lincoln Park on Sunday.

But from a little after 9 a.m. to a little before 1 p.m., fire, police and hazardous materials crews treated the powder as if it might be a bioterrorism threat.

When it was over, city officials took a better-safe-than-sorry view of the false alarm.

“We prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Fire Department spokesman Dennis Gault said.

Trouble began when a Park District employee doing some maintenance discovered a number of white powdery marks on the ground and called police, Fire Commissioner James Joyce said in an afternoon news conference near the zoo.

The substance was scattered in spots in a three- to four-block area within Lincoln Park.

More than 100 firefighters responded during the incident, which was raised from a Level 2 hazardous materials call to a Level 3 when the Fire Department’s new testing equipment at first indicated the powder might contain a dangerous substance, Joyce said.

“We got a series of false positives,” Joyce said.

Gault said later that the equipment worked properly, indicating materials present in the powder that could have been dangerous but not in the state or mixture used. He said he did not know what those materials were.

A wide range of substances will alert the testing equipment, Gault said.

“Things that normally occur in nature also can be used for negative purposes,” he said.

Under closer scrutiny from fire, Health Department and Environmental Protection Agency technicians, the substances were determined to be harmless, Gault said.

When officials learned a foot race had been held, they contacted the head of the running club, who said his group had used the powder to mark arrows to direct runners through the park.

The club leader walked the entire course with emergency workers to confirm the scattered patches of powder were their markings, which had been smudged and withered by winds.

Authorities believe “it’s a completely inert substance,” Joyce said.

In addition to firefighters, dozens of police officers in squad cars, on foot and on horseback fanned out across the southwest end of Lincoln Park. Yellow police tape surrounded the entire northwest corner of the zoo at one point.

Pedestrian and vehicle traffic could not get east of Clark or west of Lake Shore Drive, and police kept people from going south of Diversey Parkway and north of North Avenue.

“It scared the hell out of me,” said Marian Altersohn, 83, of the 2100 block of North Lincoln Park West. “My apartment faces that area, and it started quite early. I wondered why the Fire Department was there. Then I saw all the police cars and I thought, `Jeez, this is getting pretty bad.’ I didn’t know what it was all about.”

When Altersohn left her apartment around 11 a.m. to have her hair done, “no one knew what was going on and we were free to leave,” she said. “But I did hear that later, people were not allowed to go back into their homes. Someone came into the beauty parlor and said, `I can’t go home. They won’t let me in.’ I just went to a restaurant and had coffee and made it last as long as I could. I didn’t want to go home.”

Bernice Bork, who lives in the same complex, said she heard at first that the commotion was about a suspicious package in her building.

“I stayed in, I didn’t go down because … I was hesitant about using the elevator,” she said. “I didn’t know if I’d be heading for trouble or away from trouble because at that point I still thought it was a package in the building.

“I would appreciate if the [media were] a little more accurate, that they would wait to get it right before scaring the hell out of people. I’m just glad it turned out well.”

About 25 conservatory visitors and seven or eight staff members were sent home when authorities responded, and most Zoo employees also were sent home.

By about 1:30 p.m., both the zoo and the conservatory were reopening, though zoo buildings were kept closed because most staff had already gone home, said Kelly McGrath, a spokeswoman for the zoo.

Despite the outcome, Joyce said fire and police officials were better off for the experience.

Emergency crews and police officers were able to practice responding to such incidents and got to use the equipment for the purpose it was intended.

“We’re satisfied with the results,” Joyce said. “We do what we have to to protect the citizens.”

Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune

Suspicious Powder Closes Portion of Lincoln Park Neighborhood – WBBM 780

SUSPICIOUS POWDER CLOSES PORTION OF LINCOLN PARK NEIGHBORHOOD

Tuesday, December 24, 2002, 2:15 p.m.

By BRANDON LOOMIS
Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — 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.”
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

More on the story…

The Lincoln Park Zoo grounds were reopened after being closed during the hazardous materials alert, according to a news release from the zoo.

All the buildings, however, will remain closed Tuesday, the release said.

The zoo will reopen for business as usual Wednesday morning, with both the grounds and animal houses open to the public, according to the release. All fire personnel had left the scene by 1:45 p.m., and all roads had been re opened.

The area closed to traffic by the police and fire activity Tuesday afternoon included the perimeters Fullerton to North avenues, and Lincoln Park West to Lake Shore Drive. As of noon this also included the ramps from LSD to North Avenue and Fullerton, as well as northbound Clark Street at Armitage Avenue, Cannon Drive and Stockton Drive, according to the City Department of Transportation.

Emergency workers first responded to the park at 9:22 a.m., with the Level 1 Hazmat upgraded to a Level 2 response at 10:39 a.m. and a Level 3 response at 11 :29 a.m., said fire media Chief Dennis Gault.

“We received a call from the police department relative to a suspicious substance at the Lincoln Park Zoo,” Gault said of the original report.

‘Suspicious’ Powder Just Trail Marker – Sun-Times

‘Suspicious’ powder just trail marker

December 24, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

Suspicious Powder Deemed Harmless – Chicago Tribune

Suspicious powder deemed harmless

Tribune staff reports
Published December 24, 2002, 1:20 PM CST

A suspicious white powder that shut down a five-square-block area of Lincoln Park and disrupted traffic across the North Side for about two hours at midday turned out to be nothing more harmless than flour or, more likely, the chalk used to mark jogging paths, authorities said.

The substance was placed on the ground, near a west entrance to Lincoln Park Zoo, by a local running club this past weekend, Chicago Fire Commissioner James Joyce said.

Earlier, about 11 p.m., police and firefighters declared a hazardous materials alert and closed the zoo and a section of Lincoln Park as they investigated a report of a suspicious substance found near the intersection of Webster Avenue and Stockton Drive.

Streets in the area also were closed, as were southbound and northbound exit and entrance ramps of Lake Shore Drive near Lincoln Park.

Authorities looked at three piles of the substance and at about 1 p.m. held a news conference to announce their findings.
Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune

CH3 #1258

The First Annual* Chicago HHH

SANTA HAT RUN

*If this is really a silly idea we just won’t do this again, but we’ll give it a try!

Sunday, December 22, AD 2002

3:00pm Central Standard Time

Starting Location: Hidden Shamrock

2723 N. Halsted (Just South of Diversey)

It’s the bloody middle of winter, so rather than run in something as patently insane as a red dress, why not pick something that is WARM instead, not to mention something inexpensive, ubiquitous, and seasonal? From this rare and unusual flash of good sense the idea was born for the idea for the inaugural Chicago Santa Hat Run.
You are cordially invited to cum and join It’s Too Soft haring his inaugural Chicago kennel hash from the warm, cozy confines of the Hidden Shamrock. Yes, it is one of the classic Lincoln Park yuppie bars where all the “beautiful people” hang out to see and be seen, but it’s gonna get coyote ugly real quick when the hash shows up. And be nice to Cathy, the manager at “the Rock”. She’s super cool.

As an added incentive, FREE SANTA HATS will be given out to the first 25 hashers who show up at the bar, courtesy of the hare, to ensure that the inaugural “Santa Hat Run” has plenty of Santa Hats – duh. If you already have a Santa hat and/or plan on being a “later arrival” please bring your own as not having a Santa hat is like going to a Red Dress Run wearing just grey sweats. Plus it’ll keep your head warm. Wal*Mart has some really nice plush ones for about four bucks. Menard’s has some decent ones too for around two bucks, but they can also be found almost anywhere this time of the year.

The trail will include an unruly combination of

Some of the historically significant sites (locations) in Lincoln Park

Some of the visually attractive sights (also known as Lincoln Park “Trixies” – more information can be found at the Lincoln Park Trixie Society website at http://www.chicagosocialclub.com) in some of the Village’s toniest and most festivally decorated shopping districts and

At least one beer stop.

As well as some of the best shiggy to be found in all of 60614 (okay, so it’s the second most expensive zip code in the City of Chicago so don’t expect too much).

Getting to “the Rock” is easy as it’s just Southeast of the busy Halsted & Diversey intersection (2800N 800W). Best bet is the Diversey Brown Line stop which is two blocks West of the bar, or the Halsted 8 bus. Parking is a bit tricky but findable on Sundays. Just be aware of the Zone 143 Resident permit streets (which are most side streets in that ‘hood). Enforcement runs from 6:00pm to midnight.

Questions? Comments? Nagging doubts about one’s ability to do multiple down-downs? Or just plain lost among the clearly marked streets of Chicago. Contact the hare at social_chair@chicagofourth.com or 414-218-4521. The number at the Hidden Shamrock itself is (773) 883-0304.

On on!

p.s. don’t forget that Santa hats are HEADGEAR and thus should not be worn in the circle!

Marathon Maniacs – Washington Post

Marathon Maniacs
Hashers Go for the Gold. And the Blue Ribbon. And the Guinness And the Sour Apple Martini Shots.

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 24, 2002; Page F01

The lawyer can’t get his pants off.

He pulls down his sweat pants, then his underpants, to the shouting and booing of 80 frenzied runners grasping plastic cups of Guinness in a leaf-spattered back yard in Arlington. They have been drinking and running and drinking, and now — at the ceremonial end of their beloved sport known as hashing — they’re getting quite a show.

In the midst of the circle on this Thursday evening, the 57-year-old lawyer for the Department of Transportation sits on the leaves to work the sweat pants over his sneakers. The crowd groans. The man struggles. The crowd drinks. The man triumphs, standing up (groan) and pulling on a pair of honorary shorts stamped with a hashing logo. He seems not at all embarrassed. But when you’ve been hashing for 10 years, when you’ve hashed in Kuala Lumpur, Tasmania, Goa, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Beijing and Madrid, as he has, you pretty much master the art of disinhibition.

“What goes at the hash stays at the hash,” says the man, and thank goodness for that.

Hashing is freedom, baby.

Hashing: worldwide phenomenon, 64 years old. It is a running and drinking sport that feels like a traveling frat party. Hashers run through woods, along bike paths, along city streets and through tunnels, stopping en route for alcohol, ever more alcohol. Some call hashing a cult, though it’s way too disorganized for that. Some say it has the same atmosphere as college rugby, with all the beer and none of the rugby.

There are at least 10 hashing groups in the D.C. area, and each runs a different route each time and follows slightly different customs. Here’s how one of the larger chapters, the White House Hash House Harriers, did it on a recent Sunday.

They drank beer, then they ran through the streets of Ballston, following a trail laid out in flour by folks known as “hares.” They stopped at a park — panting — and had sour apple martini shots. Then they ran some more and had more shots. Then they ran some more and stopped for beer. When they’d run a total of four miles to the end of the hash — temporarily set up in an empty parking lot — they had more beer and sang songs and made fun of each other for an hour. Then they went off to a bar.

Hashing is based on Hares and Hounds, a British schoolboy game going back at least to the 19th century. The first hash was held by British expatriates living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1938 and then was spread around the world by the expat and military communities, according to Paul “Flying Booger” Woodford, of Tucson, who maintains a hashing Web site, www.half-mind.com.

The hash works like this: The hares lay a trail marked with symbols in flour, chalk or paper, which the rest of the pack later follows. False markings make the run more interesting. The point is to keep the pack in a state of collective confusion. “Racing” is considered a dirty word, and anyone who seems to be trying to finish the hash first may be guilty of a violation (more on this later).

But hashing is more than an activity; it is a culture. There are about 1,400 hashing groups worldwide, according to hard-core hashers who keep track of such things. Last month, 937 people from around the country descended on Washington for its annual Red Dress Run. Hashers consider themselves part of an international family. When they travel, they explore new cities via hashing. They stay with hashers they’ve never met before. There are ordained ministers, like Woodford, who perform hash weddings. (In one he performed, the bride and groom were the hares and everyone ran in white gowns.) One married couple in the White House hashers has 1,000 hashes between them. Some hashers live together as roommates, like the four who live in the so-called Pleasure Palace, a house in Arlington.

But cut to the chase: How does one drink and run? As a “virgin” hasher, you may get to a beer check partway through a run and find yourself nauseated at the very thought of swallowing suds. (The groups provide water and soda as alternatives.) Even some veteran hashers drink only, say, half a beer during their run, and wait till after to drink more. And there are those who hash for the camaraderie and don’t drink at all. But for those who wish to test their drinking-and-running stamina, the trick seems to be practice.

During the last Marine Corps Marathon, one hasher, a Marine officer who wants anonymity made use of his extensive hashing training. Before the race, he says, he had five beers, a glass of merlot and a cigarette. During the run, he had a bloody mary, then — along with other hashers — another beer at the 22nd mile.

He finished within 3 hours 10 minutes, good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Hashing is a way to try out an alternative persona: more fun-loving, more bold, more debauched. Because they run in packs, hashers tend toward a collective lawlessness. When they stampede across streets in packs of 50 or 100, they do it at the red, the green and the in-between. They storm through shopping malls. Sometimes they flash body parts at each other. This is made easier by their relative anonymity — hashers would rather sing dirty songs than discuss what they do for a living. For a few hours, they forget that they are consultants, military officers, a lobbyist, a former officer with the CIA. (There is also an editor, an out-of-work hotel manager, a marathon trainer.)

Hashers are also afforded freedom by the fact that they go by nicknames, which tend to be derogatory and loaded with sexual innuendo. Here are some of the tamer ones: Pimp of Sarajevo, Summer’s Eve, Big Bird Turd, Dumb&Dumber. It’s entirely possible to hash with someone for years and not know the person’s last name. It’s also possible to forget just how foul someone’s nickname is. It’s the darnedest thing, says one hasher, when you’re walking down a street in Alexandria, see a hashing buddy and start to call out his expletive-loaded nickname. Alas, the rules of life are stricter than the rules of hashing.

Speaking of rules . . .

“Hey, how ya doin’, Swings-Both-Ways?” says a hasher named Twig, greeting a buddy during a running break where people are downing shots. Twig, who in real life goes by Wendy Lageman, a program analyst, is a scribe for the White House hashers, and she runs with a notepad and headset. It’s her job to record the violations of other hashers and then read them during the evening’s closing circle ceremony, at which time the violators have to drink beer or soda. Hashers say they don’t believe in rules, but they do have some — they’re simply arbitrary and subject to change. You might be cited for wearing new running shoes or doing something stupid, like forgetting your dog at a beer stop. (A handful of hashers run with their dogs.)

Hash hazing is equal-opportunity, because the group itself is “all about inclusion,” Lageman says. “We don’t care if you’re fat or thin or bucktoothed or have a lisp.”

They do care, however, if a participant takes things too seriously.

“Prissy doesn’t work,” says John Hayward, 39, the outgoing Grand Master of Every Day Is Wednesday Hash House Harriers, which runs Thursday evenings. “People are just very crass. What I like about it is that everybody is pretty honest. There’s no PC. If you want to hit on somebody, you just go over and do it.”

Indeed, you do. Every Day Is Wednesday is considered the youngest hash in D.C., with many members in their twenties, and a good deal of flirting and dating takes place there. Annette Dumont, 27, says this is made easier by the absence of her non-hashing friends.

“It’s kind of like my moral sidekicks aren’t here to say, ‘Nettie, what are you doing?’ ”

Perhaps Hayward — who goes by the nickname HolyTit! for his one pierced nipple — explains the hasher’s free-spiritedness best by alluding to a split personality. “John was not jumping in the fountain on the waterfront,” he says. “John wasn’t jumping in people’s swimming pools. HolyTit! does that stuff.”

Hayward teaches people how to create Web sites and also works as a personal trainer. In his spare time, he’s an ultra-marathoner. He has hashed during themed runs dressed as a cheerleader, as Little Red Riding Hood, as a geisha and in a “very nice Victoria’s Secret French maid outfit.”

He is very glad that his girlfriend is also a hasher, because she understands him. Recently, she was sorting through their clothes and found a single leg hose.

“She’s like, ‘Whose is this?’ I’m like, ‘It’s mine.’ ”

Hurrah for hashing! It means irreverence, abandon, the killing of convention. After a Thursday night run, a horde of hashers descends on Dr. Dremo’s Taphouse in Arlington, conspicuous in their jogging pants and sneakers. Over in a corner sits Sandi Tartisel, a 33-year-old legal secretary, her blond hair still wet from her beer baptism. She was nicknamed this evening, an honor that is bestowed only after many hashes. She explains that kneeling on a mat in front of a large group of people and being given a lewd name and doused with a full pitcher of beer would have once flustered her. But no more. She has broken through to another dimension. Because no matter what you do in hashing, “somebody else has already done something much more embarrassing.”

Consider what she is capable of these days. Before hashing, Tartisel had never “peed outside.” Now, “I’ll do it without even thinking about it,” she says, beaming. “Long as I have a bit of coverage between two cars.”

© 2002 The Washington Post Company