Flour used to mark a running
path through downtown Wichita was mistaken for
Emergency workers pick
up yellow tape after concluding that the
suspicious white substance found on city
sidewalks Friday morning was flour used by a
running group to mark a path through downtown
Wichita the night before. (Dave Williams
The Wichita Eagle
group of fun-loving runners who like to mark their
unconventional paths with baking flour touched off an
anthrax scare that closed much of downtown Wichita on
Friday morning, snarling rush hour traffic for
hundreds of motorists.
crews began blocking streets around the Finney State
Office Building at 6:36 a.m. after a worker called
911 to report seeing a suspicious white substance
near William and Topeka.
decision to close a four-square block area was based
largely on an August 1998 anthrax scare that forced
the closing of the building for two days, said
Wichita Fire Department spokesman Bob Thompson.
area -- from Main to Emporia and Douglas to William
-- was closed for two hours as hazardous-materials
crews searched for the source of the powder, which
was found in more than 50 locations.
streets were reopened at 8:30 a.m. after fire
officials contacted members of the running group and
confirmed that the substance was flour, Thompson
Aunt Jemima, I don't know," Thompson said.
"It created a bad scare."
scare was inadvertently caused by a group called the
Hash Street Harriers, who use flour and chalk to mark
running trails that are carved through nontraditional
locations, Thompson said.
of the fun of the run is trying to follow a path set
and marked by two "hares," Steve Clark, a
member of the running group, said. The hares get a
15-minute head start, he said, then use flour and
chalk to mark a three- to five-mile path the rest of
the group must follow.
Street Harrier groups around the world
traditionally use flour to mark their paths because
it's biodegradable, Clark said, and because it
usually blows or washes away without damaging the
said he was out of town and didn't attend Thursday
night's run, but he said no one in the group could
have anticipated the flour would ever be mistaken for
couldn't believe it would happen," he said after
hearing the news. "I don't know what they
thought. We've run downtown probably 30 times over
the last three years."
said he was sure no one in the group would
intentionally cause a scare.
don't know if they even knew they were near the State
Office Building," he said.
probably won't soothe the feelings of hundreds of
motorists and pedestrians who were unable to get into
scare? This is ridiculous," said Shanna Shahan,
who was trying to walk to work at Southwind Internet
Access on Market.
Lenker said she was contemplating a trip to Nebraska
if her day at the state health insurance office was
canceled. If she couldn't get to work, she said, she
might as well get her Christmas visits started early.
have other things I can do," she said as she
waited on English. "I have better things to do
the commotion, Clark said he didn't think the running
group would change the way it operates.
it will change running by that building," he
Flint, who founded the Wichita group three years ago,
said runners have gone past the State Office Building
several times without drawing anyone's attention.
From now on, he said, the group will alert 911
dispatchers before making a run.
© The Wichita
to note that the group is referred to as the
Hash Street Harriers when
this paper ran a feature article
on the Hash House Harriers only thirty
some days previously.
- This isn't
the end of this story, see the February 8, 2000 article.