PROSPECT, Maine — The Penobscot Narrows Bridge reopened just after 2:30 p.m. Friday after a bomb threat caused a two-hour closure of the span that connects Waldo and Hancock counties, the observatory and Fort Knox State Historic Site.
The threat was written on a yellow Post-it note left in the men’s room at the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory and found by an employee, said park manager Mike Wilusz.
“I went down and found the note as described,” he said Friday. “It indicated there was a bomb at the observatory, and we went from there.”
The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police evacuated the observatory and closed the bridge around 12:30 p.m. Friday. Police from Bucksport and the Prospect and Stockton Springs fire departments assisted at the scene, helping reroute traffic 30 miles north to the bridges connecting Bangor and Brewer.
Wilusz said authorities were checking out a “suspicious person” who had gone up through the woods just before noon near the restroom where the note was found.
Police said late Friday afternoon they were searching for a slender man in his late teens or early 20s between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 10 inches. The man, who was wearing a dark blue T-shirt and black jeans, was seen running from the park restroom to Route 174 shortly before the note was found.
Seven people were evacuated from the observatory and 50 to 75 people were asked to leave Fort Knox, Wilusz said.
Vern Thompson, assistant chief of the Stockton Springs Fire Department, said it was a long detour, but most motorists seemed to be “fine” with the extra drive.
Motorists on the west side of the Penobscot River were diverted north on Route 1A to Brewer, where they could cross the river and drive back down the east side along Route 15 to Bucksport, a detour of roughly 40 miles.
Thompson said he was concerned the detour might make him late for work at Verso Paper Co. in Bucksport even though he could see the mill across the Penobscot River.
Dennis Thompson of Salem, Pa., had been traveling east on his motorcycle with a companion when the bomb threat caused a change of plans.
“We’re on our way up to Bar Harbor. Now we’re going a longer way,” he said.
It appeared that police officials wearing safety vests checked the bridge during the closure. A dispatcher from the Maine State Police said a police dog was sent from Orono to help at the scene.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office at 338-2040.
According to police officials, the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police, Prospect Fire Department, Stockton Springs fire and ambulance, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, Bucksport Police Department, Maine Department of Transportation and Fort Knox State Park staff worked together to reroute traffic and search the bridge and observation towers.
A similar bomb threat at the bridge in August 2009 shut down traffic and caused the evacuation of the 420-foot observatory and adjoining Fort Knox State Park. Observatory attendant Ted Cooke said after that incident that he spotted a torn scrap of paper that afternoon in the stairwell between the first and second levels of the three-level observatory. The crudely printed note read, “This is no joke. A bomb will go off at 4 p.m. Be warned.”
No bomb or other devices were found at the site during the 2009 event.
BDN writer Nok-Noi Ricker and photographer Scott Haskell contributed to this report.