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    Emergency vehicles, including the Durham Police Department's Biological Chemical Emergency Response Team (BCERT) vehicle pictured above, gathered on Lincoln Street next to McDougald House. Photo by Brittany Cowan/Echo Arts & Entertainment Editor.

Bleached flour hazmat incident closes Lawson Street for hours

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A letter containing what turned out to be bleached flour shut down Lawson and Lincoln streets on N.C. Central University’s campus for the majority of Thursday afternoon.

Students first received phone calls and emails at approximately 3:45 p.m. from University Police asking faculty and students to avoid the area surrounding McDougald House (617 E. Lawson St.) while they investigated a potential threat to campus safety.

That threat came in the form of a envelope containing what was first reported as a “powdery white substance.” Police say the envelope was carried between different places on campus before being discovered in the undergraduate admissions office at 3:15.

To prevent potential spread of the then-unknown powder, police sectioned off Lawson Street at its intersections with S. Alston Avenue, Merrick and Fayetteville streets as well as the section of Lincoln Street behind of the Latham Parking Deck.

Initially, NCCU staff members were not given an official reason by authorities when asked to leave their offices.

“We saw the email, but didn’t notice the helicopter or anything until we were outside,” said one purchasing department staff member who asked to remain anonymous.

Two people were decontaminated as a preventative measure by Durham County EMS on the scene before the substance was tested by law enforcement and determined to be bleached flour.

One final email and phone call gave the NCCU campus community the all clear signal at 7:45 p.m., noting that “no students, faculty or staff were impacted.”

The university originally announced early Friday morning that McDougald House would remain closed on Friday with plans to reopen with normal business hours on Monday, Aug. 27. The decision was later reversed.

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