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AURELIUS — Employees and shoppers were later cleared to go back inside the Fingerlakes Mall in Aurelius after it was evacuated Friday morning because of a bomb threat.

State police went to the Aurelius shopping center to investigate the threat, while people were waiting outside. Troopers cleared the building and allowed it to reopen at about 11:10 a.m.

Rob Barber, the general manager at one of the mall's anchor stores, Bass Pro Shops, said a threat "saying there was a bomb somewhere" in the mall was made via email. 

Fingerlakes Mall General Manager Rene Patterson said the mall reported the email to the state police "as a preventative measure," and the mall put its evacuation plan into place at 9:30 a.m. Since the mall opens at 10 a.m., Barber said not too many people from the community — besides a few mall walkers — were inside at the time of the evacuation. 

"Everything is clear," Patterson said after the 11:10 a.m. announcement. "We're taking it very seriously."

State police said around 11:15 a.m. that there was nothing suspicious located while sweeping the building and there wasn't anything to worry about, nor further information to report. 

Although Santa Claus had plans to be inside at Bass Pro Shops on Friday morning, he continued spreading holiday cheer and taking photos with children in the 43 degree weather during the roughly 90-minute evacuation. Being used to the North Pole, Santa said he was OK with being outside — noting it was "not too hot, not too cold." 

Santa even took the time to visit and sing with Seneca County Head Start preschoolers on their bus as they were waiting for the building to be cleared. Jess Rennie, the preschoolers' lead teacher, said the class came to the mall at 10 a.m. for its annual Christmas field trip to take photos with Santa and hear him read a story. 

"They were excited to see him on the bus," Rennie said of her students. 

The incident at the mall comes as a wave of threats has been made over the past 24 hours around the nation. Patterson said he believed the email the mall received was part of the "same strand of emails that's been going through the state."

Cayuga County's dispatch center said they are not aware of any other threats being reported in the county.

The FBI has said it is assisting law enforcement agencies that are dealing with the threats.

"As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety," the FBI said in a statement.

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.

Towns Reporter