The 40-story First National Tower building in downtown Omaha was evacuated Friday morning after a nitric acid leak was discovered.
Hundreds of workers, some of whom were forced to use the stairs during the evacuation, began pouring out of the building at 16th and Dodge Streets in an orderly fashion after firefighters were called about 10:15 a.m.
No injuries were reported, said Dan Stolinski, assistant Omaha fire chief.
“It was an orderly evacuation, a precaution,'' Stolinski said. “It's (nitric acid) a respiratory hazard.''
Elliott Finch, 77, said he and a handful of other Hap Abraham caterers were setting up for a luncheon on the seventh floor when they were alerted by the building's fire alarm and then told to evacuate down the stairs.
The nitric acid leak was reported by a worker on the building's west dock who noticed the leak while going through delivered packages, Stolinski said. The nitric acid is probably used in cleaning operations inside the building, he said.
Stolinski said four bottles of the acid, or about one liter total, may have leaked through their packaging.
First National Tower employees were allowed back inside the structure at 11:30 a.m. after a hazardous-materials crew finished its work. The crew was to repackage the acid and then dispose of it.
The six lanes of eastbound Douglas Street were closed between 16th and 17th Streets while firefighters tended to the leak.
— Jay Withrow