Pandemonium broke out on Thursday evening in Pittsburgh when a bomb threat on three of the city’s tunnels was made and a sudden thunderstorm flooded major roads and bridges. At 4:48 p.m., a man with a foreign accent called in the threat from a pay phone on the South Side to Allegheny County 911. Earlier, at 4:25 p.m., Pittsburgh police responded to a report of suspicious packages at a bus shelter near Stanwix Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard in town, but they didn’t find anything once they arrived there. Because of the severity of the threat and because it was lacking in specifics, only that a bomb would go off at 6:00 p.m. in one of the tunnels, police made the difficult decision to close the tunnels just as rush hour was starting.

The Fort Pitt and Squirrel Hill tunnels were the first to close at 5:45 p.m. Approximately 180,000 motorists use the Fort Pitt tunnels, and about 105,000 to 110,000 use the Squirrel Hill tunnels each day. Traffic began to back up on the Parkway East, Parkway West, and Route 28 as fifteen state police troopers and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation crews searched throughout the tunnels, finding nothing. The local news showed traffic being turned around at the entrance to the Fort Pitt tunnels at a slow crawl. Then The Liberty Tunnels, which have about 40,000-60,000 cars pass through each day, were closed as well. Motorists were frustrated, but the decision was one which would ensure everyone’s safety on the road. Again, nothing was found, and the Squirrel Hill Tunnel was the first to reopen at 6:20 p.m. followed by The Fort Pitt Tunnel ten minutes later, and the Liberty Tunnel at 6:45 p.m.

As if those delays weren’t enough, many motorists may have been on their way to a Pirate game that night, which was luckily delayed for 45 minutes thanks to a thunderstorm was passing through the area at the exact same time as the security checks at about 5:30 p.m. In less than an hour, 2 inches of rain fell. About three blocks of Route 28 was under water, and the heavily trafficked area between 31st Street and 40th Street was forced to close until 9:00 p.m. While flooding is common in the area during heavy rain storms, the damage done that night may have been the result of backed up drains. Several electrical transformers were said to have blown as well.

Police are looking into who was responsible for creating the chaos that occurred. It was the first time in recent history that all traffic was shut down on both sides of the tunnels because of a bomb threat. The pay phone that was said to have been used to make the call was removed from Carson Street in the South Side and taken for fingerprinting.

Many angry commuters are now hoping that they catch the person, or people, who caused them to have a lousy Thursday evening.

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