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Police explosion on railroad tracks

(The following story by Rob Longley appeared on the Daily News-Record website on January 28, 2010.)

HARRISONBURG, Pa. — Police have evacuated a dormitory on the campus of James Madison University in connection with this morning's explosion on a section of railroad tracks not far from the JMU campus.

Harrisonburg police said in a statement that "information obtained during the investigation led officers to the McGraw-Long dormitory." The dorm has been evacuated "for the convenience of the officers to conduct a thorough search."

The statement added that there is "no anticipated hazard in the dorm."

However, police are not saying what led them to the dorm or what they think they might find there.

Harrisonburg police have confirmed that a "small explosion" occurred on or near the railroad tracks near Cantrell Avenue this morning.

A resident of a nearby apartment complex called 911 at about 6:30 a.m. to report a "possible explosion" near the tracks, according to police.

Investigators with the Harrisonburg Police Department's Crime Scene Unit and K-9 squad have found evidence of an explosion, along with "debris" on the tracks, although it's not clear what specifically has been found or how much damage was caused by the blast.

But officials say no one was injured in the blast, adding that the device was relatively small.

Police have confirmed that a freight train was "being moved" in the area of the blast at the time of the incident.

But it's not clear whether the train, now parked nearby, triggered the device.

The tracks that run through Harrisonburg are used almost exclusively by freight train operators.

Bomb-sniffing dogs and other officers have swept the area around the blast and have not found any other devices.

Police are continuing to collect evidence this morning in an effort to identify the type of device and explosive material that went off and to look for clues as to who might have put it there.

The Daily News-Record will continue to update this story as details become available.

Friday, January 29, 2010

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