Published: Jul 14, 2011 4:47 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 14, 2011 3:47 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) - It's more than big city gridlock and some people in the Los Angeles area are sounding positively apocalyptic as they warn about this weekend's "Carmageddon."

Thousands of doctors and nurses will bunk at hospitals, an emergency operation center will be set up and Southern California residents are being urged to stay home and stock up on food.

One major airline offered $4 seats to help people avoid the looming mess, selling out of tickets in three hours.

The looming crisis is the total, 53-hour, weekend closure of a 10-mile stretch of the vital Interstate 405 which links population centers north and south of the Santa Monica Mountains. It's part of a major highway reconstruction project, and bridge replacement.

City leaders stress that real public safety concerns exist. Helipads have been cleared for air ambulances and 200 extra firefighters and paramedics will be on duty.

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