Chemical scare at Pass Christian Post Office

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - The commotion started at 7:00 Tuesday morning, with a suspicious delivery.

"The Pass Christian Post Office received a truck load of mail from Memphis. And when they opened up one of the containers that all the mail was in, they found some yellow powder and a pungent odor," said Earl Etheridge with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

The mail was transferred in Gulfport, before arriving in Pass Christian in an 18-wheeler. The post office on Davis Avenue was immediately evacuated.

The first Gulfport Hazmat team entered the building to examine the container and take some samples. A second crew then huddled over the sealed samples to test the unknown substance.

"We don't think the product that we were testing came from a package.  All the packages were intact," said Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan.

Nervous neighbors gathered nearby, wondering about their family's safety.

"I'm just worried about it," said Beverly Henry. "Is it hazard? Because I have grand babies. Momma's got great-grand babies here, you know."

The results finally came in around 11 A.M.

"It showed the consistency and the look of a dry powder extinguisher," said Sullivan. "When we did the test, and it came back possibly as being that.  And then we did a control test with the other fire extinguisher, it confirmed our readings."

With the scare behind them, postal employees were allowed to return to work. Neighbors felt relieved, but they still had a lot of questions.

"Is it safe? Do they know what it's from? How did it get on the truck? Don't know. Oh my God!" said Henry.

It's now up to the U.S. Postal Service to track the mail and search for answers.

The post office shut down for four hours and reopened as soon as the scene was cleared. The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspectors, and Office of Homeland Security also responded to assist Pass Christian police and firefighters.