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No Big Boom on the Potomac Wednesday

Briefly today -- before officials hastily issued a correction -- it looked like commuters near Georgetown would be in for quite a show Wednesday morning.

"For the filming of a TV pilot, there will be a simulated explosion ..... between 9:30 a.m. and noon near the Key Bridge," read a somewhat exaggerated advisory from the Washington Area Council of Governments. The bulletin, which was quickly posted on news websites, and which COG later attributed to interagency miscommunication, said, "The explosion will produce a 20 to 30' fireball that will last for approximately two minutes."

Cool!

But no -- not in this hyper-secure, hyper-vigilant capital city. A prolonged explosion? A towering fireball? Imagine the potential for panic.

"The press release that went out makes it sound like something much scarier than it actually is," said Josh Friedman, spokesman for the D.C. Film Office, which is helping CBS Paramount film a show called "Washington Field." The Hollywood Reporter says it's an action series about an FBI unit "comprising elite experts in different areas who travel around the world, responding to events that concern the U.S. national interest."

To hear Friedman tell it, they won't be needed near the Key Bridge on Wednesday, because there most definitely will not be an "explosion" on the Potomac River.

"That word is misleading," he said, trying to calm any concern. "It will be a self-contained pyrotechnic special effect. ..... It's actually out on the water. Nothing is being blown up.

There's no impact or force of any kind. I think there was some indication that a boat was going to be blown up, and that's not the case."
Okay? Don't worry.

"It will last for two seconds, not two minutes. It's really just going to be a flash of light and a puff of smoke, and it will be vaporized into the air in seconds. Really. I mean, if you blink, you'll miss it. It's really a nonevent."

So don't bother coming out to gawk.

"It'll be safely upriver from the Key Bridge, a clear distance from any structure or roadway or bridge," Friedman said. "D.C fire and emergency management, the Coast Guard, homeland security, the airport authority, the D.C. police -- they've all signed off on the safety of this. It's been in the works for quite some time and it's gone through several levels of review."

On TV at some point, it will sound quite loud -- like an explosion. But on the river Wednesday morning, Friedman said, "it'll be a low thud, audible only in the immediate area."

Paul Duggan

By Marcia Davis  |  March 23, 2009; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  City Life  
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