Weather forecasters were whipping themselves into a Category 5 frenzy on Thursday about the prospects for a massive, epic northeastern storm emerging from what is now Hurricane Sandy.
But even if Sandy meanders out to sea, as one forecast model suggested, Pittsburgh is in for a rude end to this week's balmy conditions.
The city has college football, pro football and The Boss this weekend. Nearly every hotel room in the immediate area has been booked.
Unfortunately, Indian summer isn't sticking around for any of it. Saturday's forecast high in the mid-50s is nearly 25 degrees below today's, and the "s" word has drifted into the National Weather Service's five-day forecast.
Showers are possible from Saturday through Tuesday, with snow mixing in starting Monday night.
Depending on what Sandy does, the Northeast could be in for a storm that matches or exceeds the wallop of the infamous "perfect storm" of October 1991.
Many forecasters think the hurricane will track north along the East Coast and eventually turn left, joining forces with the cold front that's going to wreck our weather starting tonight. The Atlantic coast will take a thrashing from high winds, high seas and torrential rain and there's even a chance for wet, heavy snow in the Appalachians early next week.
The worst-case scenario could bring several inches of snow to the ridges of the Laurel Highlands and even Pittsburgh, where most of it would melt on impact, weather service meteorologist Lee Hendricks said.
"There's a great deal of uncertainty right now in the track of the storm. The interaction between that and the cold front that's going to sweep the Great Lakes and Midwest this weekend makes it more uncertain," he said.
The weather service doubled its use of balloon-lofted radiosondes on Thursday across the U.S. in an effort to get better data about the storm's possible evolution, Mr. Hendricks said.
At State College-based AccuWeather, bloggers and experts used terms like "catastrophic" and "disastrous" and one suggested that it could wreak Katrina-like devastation on the East Coast.
The city will teem with activity this weekend, with the Pitt Panthers hosting Temple at Heinz Field at noon Saturday, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing a sold-out show at Consol Energy Center that evening and the Steelers at home against the Washington Redskins at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Hotel rooms for Saturday night were almost completely gone by Thursday afternoon. A check of the Expedia travel website showed 117 of 118 listed hotels sold out; one room was left at a Downtown hotel for $475.
Those making their way around the city will face an assortment of road closures and traffic restrictions as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation tries to finish projects before the onset of cold weather.
Several lane restrictions are planned on the Parkway East for pavement repair at bridges.
An inbound lane will close at Wilkinsburg from 9 p.m. today to 10 a.m. Saturday; an outbound lane will close at Edgewood-Swissvale from 10 p.m. today to 10 a.m. Saturday.
An inbound lane will close at Wilkinsburg from 9 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday; an outbound lane at Edgewood-Swissvale will close from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday.
On the outbound side at Wilkinsburg, one lane will close from 7 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday and two of the three lanes will close from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday.
The ramp from northbound Interstate 579-Crosstown Boulevard to Bigelow Boulevard in Downtown Pittsburgh will close from 8 p.m. today through 6 a.m. Monday. This work was planned last weekend but postponed. The detour is via the Centre Avenue-Consol Energy Center exit and Washington Place.
The inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel will be single-lane from 10 p.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Saturday.
Inspection of the ramp from the Veterans Bridge to Route 28 will cause traffic shifts from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Greentree Road will close this weekend in the area of the bridge over Chartiers Creek in Scott. Greentree Road and Old Washington Pike will be closed from 8 p.m. today through 6 a.m. Monday.
Access to Old Washington Pike from Route 50 will remain open. But traffic on Old Washington Pike will not be able to get to Greentree Road or Route 50. In addition, traffic on westbound Greentree will not be able to access Old Washington Pike.
Banksville Road construction continues on an abbreviated schedule this weekend. One lane will close in both directions between the Parkway West and Wenzell Avenue from 8 p.m. today through about 6 a.m. Saturday.
PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi said much of the work is weather-dependent and could be postponed if the forecast is bad. Even so, the department expects to see enough good weather before winter to complete the projects that are under way.
And if Hurricane Sandy produces a late-October surprise, PennDOT is ready, he said.
"We're well-aware of the potential for bad weather next week. Almost all of our equipment is ready to go," he said. "We're prepared for the worst."
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic. First Published October 26, 2012 4:00 AM