Florida highway safety agency evacuated over anthrax scare

Florida’s highway safety agency was evacuated Monday morning and 1,100 state workers were sent home after employees found a threatening letter that mentioned anthrax.

Officials with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said no anthrax was found.

Hazardous materials teams were studying the letter and yellow crime scene tape was strung around the perimeter of the building.

“What a mess,’’ said Julie Jones, highway safety director. “We believe that everybody was safely evacuated out of the building.’’

Jones said the threatening letter was addressed to her personally but she had not seen it and was not familiar with the contents.

“When they opened it up, it threatened that the letter had white powder in it and said ’This is anthrax and I hope u die,’ ” she said.

Anthrax is a potentially fatal disease caused by spore-forming bacterium. It occurs most commonly in wild and domestic animals and can occur in humans exposed to infected animals. Anthrax spores have been used as a bioterrorist weapon.

Lt. Mike Bellamy of the Tallahassee Fire Department said seven state workers were still inside the building in the second-floor records unit where the letter was discovered.

He said the workers were fine and being kept in the building to help preserve the crime scene. They were visited by hazardous material teams with special respiratory equipment.

Jones said if no further problems were reported, employes would be asked to return to work at 1 p.m. Monday.

The building, at 2900 Apalachee Parkway, is known as the Kirkman Building. It is about 4 miles east of the state Capitol and is the headquarters of employees who process applications for driver’s licenses, car and truck registrations and car titles.