The streets outside a Chicago-area hotel were filled with people in costume early Sunday after a furry convention was evacuated due to a chlorine gas incident that police believe may have been intentional.
Several thousand people were ordered out of the Hyatt Regency Hotel around 1 a.m. after guests reported a chlorine odor on the 9th floor, according to local media.
Many of the guests were staying at the hotel while attending the 2014 Midwest Furfest convention, an annual gathering for people who enjoy art, literature, and performance based around anthropomorphic animals, according to the group's website. Many attendees enjoy dressing as those characters, and were in costume when the evacuation order was given.
Although 19 people were taken to local hospitals after being sickened, 18 were soon released.
A hazmat team at the scene said they found a “substance, consistent in odor and appearance to powdered chlorine" in the stairwell, according to a statement cited by Fox6.
“It was like when you walk into a pool. It was pungent,” evacuee Chris Delaney told the Chicago Tribune.
“It was shocking,” Morgan Smejkal, who was dressed as a red panda, told the paper.
The way the chlorine was found leads police to believe the incident was intentional.
"In the course of investigating the scene, the Rosemont Police Department determined that this was a criminal act and began investigating it as such," Furfest organizers said in a statement released online.
Video from the scene showed people milling outside the hote.
"We've been having a grand old time and we do not know what's going on at this time," Anthrocon organizer Samuel Conway, a.k.a. "Uncle Kage," told AP. "We've been asked to leave the hotel for unknown reasons but we have a lot of costumers out here with big fluffy costumes that'll keep people warm so at this point we're not at all worried."
For those not warmed by their costumes, the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and other nearby facilities opened to offer the guests refuge.
"There was a dog-grooming trade show going on and in walk all these people dressed like dogs and foxes," Pieter Van Hiel told AP.
The furry convention continued on Sunday without further incident.
In a statement, Furfest said:
"As we wake up today we want to continue to provide the best possible convention that we can, despite the trying circumstances. The convention will be running on a full normal programming schedule today. We ask you to continue to be patient, and remember that the volunteers who make Midwest FurFest happen intend to give 110% to make sure that the fun, friendship, and good times of Midwest FurFest 2014 overshadow last night’s unfortunate incident."
The organization said it would not offer refunds, and the hotel would not be comping rooms, as a result of the incident.