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This past week, I reported a story on Carmageddon for The Madeleine Brand Show. If you don’t know what Carmageddon refers to, it was the scheduled multi-day shutdown of a stretch of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. It was touted for months beforehand as the impending mother of all traffic nightmares, which ended up not being true. You can listen to the story here. I mean, you don’t have to if you’re busy. No big deal. Oh God, please listen to it!

It was a very simple piece. I really wanted to show listeners the difference in noise level for these people when the highway was shut down — a super rare occurrence. The silence was almost eerie when I stepped out of my car on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, because of time and story constraints, I had to cut out some audio that I think really captured the change. So, I’m putting it up here.

Theresa Jackson, the homeowner, said that she and her family spend most of their time outdoors in their front courtyard. The reason is that it’s a little quieter, because the rest of the house blocks the highway traffic somewhat. They’ve made it into a nice little sitting area.

Here’s what it sounds like on the patio when traffic is running normally. If you listen carefully, you can hear the water fountain they put in to mask the freeway noise:

And here’s what it sounded like on Saturday, 10 hours into Carmageddon:

The difference is obvious. I recorded both audio clips onto my Marantz PMD661 using a Shure SM58 microphone. The only editing I did was to boost the overall levels (and also cut out the sounds of Theresa’s husband clipping his nails).

This was the only time in the nearly 15 years that the family’s lived there that this kind of magical weekend has happened. Traffic has been stopped on the 405 before, but never to this extent and never for as long. As I left the house, I came across one of the neighbors who was out walking her dog. She was peering over a wall to look onto the deserted highway. She said she was shocked at the difference and indeed seemed kind of like she was in a daze as she led her dog back home.

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