Panic hits LA as 'Carmageddon' is set to strike

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In Manila they have typhoons and in Japan earthquakes. But what is the pending not-entirely-natural disaster that has Los Angeles on edge this weekend? It's the closure of a 10-mile stretch of an interstate highway and the "Carmageddon" some say that it will trigger.

The problem is that Angelinos rarely consider leaving home if it isn't behind the wheel of a car. Bus? Bicycle? Walk? They don't think so. Nor does it help that the section of the freeway involved, Interstate 405, is one of the busiest in the city, handling half a million vehicles on a typical July weekend. The closure was due to begin after rush hour last night and last 53 hours.

The Los Angeles police can only pray that their efforts to warn drivers about the work – the reconstruction of the 50-year-old Mulholland Bridge as part of a $1bn (£620bn) road-widening plan – will have persuaded as many of them as possible to stow their car keys until Monday morning when all lanes will be open again.

Hospitals are asking nurses and doctors to sleep over at the job and not risk being late for work. Airlines are telling passengers using the airport, just off the 405, to leave home two hours earlier than usual. Reports abound, meanwhile, of residents preparing as if for a hurricane, stockpiling food and other necessities. Some weddings set for this weekend have been postponed as have assorted sporting events, all in an effort to keep car traffic to a minimum.

Not since the Michael Jackson funeral two years ago or the 1984 Olympic Games has so much been done to keep city residents out of their natural habitat of leather, plastic and exhaust fumes at least for two days.