Los Angeles, a city renowned for its traffic is about to face a jam of biblical proportions.
"Carmageddon" is the name Los Angeles residents are giving the inevitable and likely epic traffic tie-up that will result when a 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway is closed for construction from Friday night to Monday morning between two of the nation's busiest interchanges.
The unprecedented 53-hour shutdown, expected to delay motorists for hours on alternate routes with ripple effects on about a dozen other major highways, will allow crews to demolish a bridge as part of a $1 billion freeway-widening project.
In a sign that few motorists in America's second-largest city take a breezy attitude toward the closure, Los Angeles plans to open its emergency operations center over the weekend.
This being Hollywood, officials have recruited a gaggle of celebrities to warn motorists of the impending gridlock, including newly cast "Two and a Half Men" star Ashton Kutcher and "CHiPs" actor Erik Estrada. The main message: Stay away!
That message has inspired a number of leisure destinations outside Los Angeles to offer special "Escape Carmageddon" discount packages, from a Mammoth Mountain hotel in the Eastern Sierras to a hotel-casino in Las Vegas.
But most people who live and work in and around the gridlock zone have no choice but to hunker down for the weekend.
In an "Over-the-405" promotion launched on Wednesday by JetBlue Airways, the discount airline offered special nonstop flights between Long Beach and Burbank for Saturday priced at just $4 each way, taxes and fees included.
Charter helicopter companies are selling air "taxi" service to Los Angeles International Airport for well-heeled L.A. travelers fearful of missing pre-booked airline flights to more distant destinations.
The stretch of the 405 Freeway that will be closed, known locally as the Sepulveda Pass, is traversed by about 500,000 vehicles on a typical summer weekend, said Marc Littman, a spokesman for Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), an agency handling the project.
The 405, a U.S. interstate route that runs from Irvine, California, north to the Mission Hills district of Los Angeles, is perhaps best known outside L.A. for the widely televised low-speed police chase of O.J. Simpson, then suspected in the murder of his ex-wife, in June 1994.