October 19th, 2007 5:33 pm | by Jonah Sandford News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

TOPOFF Diary: Back To Business But With Cool Photos

Everything seemed to be just about back to normal at TOPOFF this morning.
Far away from the bomb-sniffing dogs and police in riot gear that struck fear into Portland's heart yesterday afternoon at Lloyd Center, FEMA public affairs official Darryl Madden is addressing the media in a ballroom at the airport Sheraton. Answering questions about the bomb scare that shut down the exercise for several hours yesterday, he says TOPOFF 4 is "back on track," and "we'll still be able to meet a lot of the objectives we set forth."
We're here for the final media event of the massive counterterrorism exercise that's been going on in Portland this week, at which Joe Green and Kelvin Crenshaw from the Seattle Bureau of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have just finished telling us about how they got to blow up a bus.
You may remember the shell of a bus (with the letters MAX painted sloppily across its back) that was used as a stand-in for the MAX train (supposedly hit by terrorists with a "dirty bomb") at the exercise site at Portland International Raceway. It turns out that bus was actually exploded last week up near Yakima, Wash. with ATF officials monitoring the scene. They then took careful note where everything ended up after the explosion, and trucked it all down to PIR to recreate the "disaster scene."
Why this press conference was at all important (especially at 9:30 in the morning) I do not know. But the ATF guys did bring lots of awesome photos and video of the explosion! Here's the "before" photo (which I kind of love) of the bus and a few cars out in the middle of nowhere in Central Washington (everyone had to be 1.5 miles away from the blast).
And then: KER-PLOW!!!
Note how much bigger this (totally bitchin') explosion was than the (unbelievably lame) explosion staged solely for the TV cameras at PIR on Tuesday. I think if the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA want us to get fired up about these things, we may need a giant (completely controlled, completely safe) plume of smoke going up over our city at some point.
Anyway, that was it.
It was kind of an anti-climactic end to the week, especially after all the excitement yesterday. We were back in the same ballroom we started the week off in, still unable to get any answers about what was actually going on in the exercise, still trying to figure out what this $25 million of federal money was going towards. Other than massive, so-totally-cool explosions outside of Yakima.
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