Things got weird in an unanticipated and frightening way for several thousand attendees of Midwest FurFest early Sunday morning when they were the targets of an allegedly intentional chlorine gas leak that could have turned deadly according to the, uh, fuzz.
Puns aside, the news is deeply troubling. The event is the second-biggest gathering of furries, the term for people who dress up in expensive animal costumes and role-play (sometimes sexually) as anthropomorphic critters.
Furries have long been a punching bag for the internet, and are a frequent target of ridicule on forums like Something Awful and image boards like 4Chan. But although the subculture is all too familiar with the concept of "fursecution," this is the first time they've ever been the target of an IRL attack on this scale.
The Midwest FurFest drew 4,600 attendees this year, which means a lot of people stood to be poisoned if the apparent attack were successful. Luckily, the leak was obvious due to the chemical's pungent odor, and attendees were evacuated from the Chicago-area Hyatt about 30 minutes after the leak was detected shortly after midnight. Chlorine exposure can cause symptoms ranging from blurry vision to a condition called acute lung injury, and in up to 1 percent of exposure cases, people die.
A hazmat team found the source of the gas in a hotel stairwell—a pile of powdered chlorine—and the incident sent 19 people, who were complaining of dizziness and other medical issues, to the hospital. (A police investigation into who put the chlorine there is ongoing.)
By 4:21 AM, the Rosemont Police Department gave the all-clear and allowed the furries to continue their party. " As we wake up today we want to continue to provide the best possible convention that we can, despite the trying circumstances," FurFest organizers said in a statement. "We ask you to continue to be patient, and remember that the volunteers who make Midwest FurFest happen intend to give 110 percent to make sure that the fun, friendship, and good times of Midwest FurFest 2014 overshadow last night's unfortunate incident."
The convention, which began on Thursday, has already featured events like "Explaining Furry to Your Parents" and "A New Introduction to Pawpaterring." It ends Monday night. Although they might not have slept much this weekend due to the evacuation, fuzzy-headed convention-goers can try to wrangle with the intricacies of "Furry Theory" in a group discussion today. Hopefully, they can make it to 10 PM for the final event, which now seems to have an inappropriate name: the Dead Dog Dance.
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