With Mass Transit Shut Down, Transit Officials Monitor Possible Water Damage

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City transit officials say they’ve finished an unprecedented shutdown of the nation’s biggest system of subways, buses and commuter rails ahead of Hurricane Irene.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Saturday night it had secured all its equipment and sent employees home. The transit system stopped running at noon Saturday. It’s the first time officials have ordered the giant network shut down because of bad weather.

Sandbags and tarps were placed on or around subway grates.
The transit system won’t reopen until at least Monday, after pumps remove water from flooded stations. The subways routinely flood during even ordinary storms and have to be pumped out.

The transit system carries about 5 million passengers on an average weekday. The last time it was seriously hobbled was an August 2007 rainstorm that disabled or delayed every subway line.

More: Track Irene’s Path | Hurricane Resources | Evac Zone Finder | Prepare For The Storm

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the system-wide shutdown of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which includes subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Access-A-Ride.

“We’ll see what happens as far as fresh water and salt water. Either one is very damaging to our system – salt water all the worse because of the corrosive properties of the salt water on the third rails and the electrical systems,” Donovan said.

Officials said the mass transit systems won’t reopen until at least Monday.

“We’re pleased that we didn’t, at least as far as I know, have many reports of overcrowding as people were catching those last trains before service was shut down,” Donovan said.

“Shutting down the New York City subway is not like turning off water in a tap. It does take six to eight hours to complete. Those activities are winding down. We’re making sure all of our crewmembers are going to be able to get back to a safe location. It’s obviously one of our most pressing concerns right now,” Donovan said.

The move to shut down mass transit was prompted by worries about whipping winds for trains and buses above ground and flooding concerns for trains running under rivers through one of 13 tunnels.

“Buses are going to be parked in high ground. We have bus depots on Staten Island, bus depots out in Queens that are in low-lying areas. And we’re making sure that we’re moving around 330 buses, if not more, up to high ground. You’re going to see a lot of buses right now parked on 126th Street and Second Avenue – spillover from our East Harlem depot,” Donovan said.

“Those tunnels may be flooded and we’re worried a lot about that possibility,” MTA chairman Jay Walder said.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports: Don’t Wait Until Last Train To Leave

Cuomo also said if wind speeds exceed 60 mph, area bridges will be closed. Those include the George Washington Bridge, Tappan Zee Bridge, all bridges operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority as well as the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson Kingston-Rhinecliff and Rip Van Winkle bridges.

PATH service is also suspended. The Port Authority says it will resume service if conditions permit.

NJ Transit also stopped running at noon Saturday because of the storm.

After the shut down, MTA chairman Jay Walder says getting the sprawling system running again after the hurricane is going to be a huge challenge.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports: System Startup Will Be Difficult

“I don’t think there’s any question that the period after the storm will be difficult,” said Walder. “It’s going to be an extremely difficult situation.”

Do you agree with the transit shut downs? Sound off in our comments section below…

  • lbnj

    I’m enjoying reading the different comments about the weather, transportation and politics. But, Jesus Christ Superstar – you are a trip!

  • RecoveringNYaholic

    I love the sense of immunity of New Yorkers. But instead of taking comfort in the bravado of anti-Semitic morons like Ignorante, here’s a suggestion of what to watch as long as you have power. The wind isn’t going to be a big deal. Windows aren’t going to blow out everywhere. Probably less than a foot of rain.

    The storm surge is the deal. This afternoon, SUNY Stony Brook put the top of the surge 6 inches below the Battery sea wall’s top at high tide at 8 AM. Now they’ve got it at the top of the wall 45 minutes before high tide. That means it’ll be close. Storm speeds up or the track moves right, everything’s cool. Storm slows down a little, and the bottom of the island gets real wet. That doesn’t kill anybody, but the salt water keeps going down until it can’t any more, and right there’s MTA’s third rails and ConEd’s wires. Then in terms of even making coffee Monday, let alone getting to work from Brooklyn, good luck with that.

    So watch the surge. You can do so at stormy dot msrc dot sunysb dot edu slash home dot htm.

    And, for real, good luck.

  • Betsy

    This whole thing is freaking ridiculous….there is no “hurricane” coming, there have been no wind speeds recorded of more than 40mph. Even off the coast of South America people were saying it was no big deal. Oh 6 people have died – well whoop de doo, similar numbers of people die in ordinary rain and snow storms every year. By the time it reaches New York it’s barely going to pass as a tropical rain storm. Every SERIOUS weather site I have been to has been saying this is one diminished storm and will not be NEARLY as serious as the media and Bloomberg are saying it’s going to be. How much money have they wasted with this stupid “evacuation” and shutting down the subways and possibly turning power off? The fact is that the media is playing this up purely for the sensation and to procure ratings, while Bloomberg is jazzing everything up in order to make him look like a strong leader in a crisis, like Giuliani. When this “heavy rainstorm” has passed by tomorrow afternoon and the impending apocalypse did NOT come, let that be a final lesson to every man, woman and child, that our leaders ARE complete and utter lying b’stads and that we should not trust the media as far as we can throw it. I am sick of this BS.

    • IgnoranteElephante

      Well said!

      When we start to get meteorological advice from Bloombergsteinbergerwitz, the same man whose Christmas blizzard advice was go to the park and take in a show, we are all in trouble.

      Go to any meteorologist’s website, and they all show a storm with a maximum of 35 mph wind gusts, that’s barely a tropical storm.

      I would also again note the irony of how we suffer when Bloombergsteinbergerwitz is in Aruba during a blizzard and when he is here playing nanny for an alleged hurricane.

    • Wetsy

      Wow you sound a little bitter.How far is that stick up your —?

  • Jerry Ballew

    Hmmm. First time transit was shut down because of a natural disaster? I was in New York the winter of 1969 when a snowstorm shut down the city. Cabs, Buses, Subway … you name it. For three days if you didn’t walk, you got nowhere. I was working a film up in Connecticut and had to catch a bus in midtown every day. I was living in the East Village (Lower East Side then) and had to get up early every morning to catch the bus, then had to walk down to 10th and D every evening. About 40 years ago. How short the memory for “firsts.” Mayor Lindsey was cussed up and down and almost lost his mayoral status. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/remembering-a-snowstorm-that-paralyzed-the-city/

    • IgnoranteElephante

      Either you’re misunderstanding the article or didn’t bother to read it. This is the first time the city has preemptively shut down the transit system, not the first time a weather related condition caused its closure.

      It sounds like you just wanted to be nostalgic and tell us a tale from your past. If you wanted to point to a storm shutting down the MTA, you only had to go as far back as December 26 and 27, 2011.

  • RB

    One thing though… when the storm hits and it’s actually killing people, then we’ll damn sure be hearing people whine about wht didn’t they evacuate? I lived in Taiwan for ten years and been through a fair share of hurricanes, and some of them are REALLY, REALLY deadly.

    • IgnoranteElephante

      The thing is we’re not in Taiwan. No one disputes hurricanes are deadly. The problem most people who are complaining are having is that a preemptive transit shut down, power reduction, and mandatory evacuation are a little much given the National Weather Service has stated the hurricane is weakening and has yet to record any wind speeds over 35 mph on land. That puts it at barely a tropical storm.

      Given all the talk about the city’s resilience and toughness, the whole thing is ridiculous.

  • Marina Ios

    each time something happens in this city , the first one to capitulate , unconditionally, is MTA…..it is horrible, taking in consideration that it is the major commuting mean, here in nyc, its becoming scary, the thought that we must rely upon them in case of a real emergency …….sad

  • IgnoranteElephante

    If the government told you evacuation was necessary, and you believed it, would you beleive that its necessary to surrender your car or house for the greater good? Your right to vote? Your pay check? Your child?

    • Reverend Rev

      Mandatory evacuations are legally irrelevant. The City CANNOT force you to leave your home – but, if you’re hurt or killed, you or your family CAN sue the City for not forcing you to leave.

      It’s truly sad – and discriminatory – that only people in low-lying coastal areas get such a lucrative opportunity.

      • Mike

        Suing the city for not forcing you to leave if you get hurt? If they told you to evacuate, you stay at your own risk….why would you even consider suing someone due to your own stupidity?!

    • Batman

      Stop whining and acting like it’s the end of the world. If you don’t want to leave, nobody’s going to hunt you down.

      • IgnoranteElephante

        First of all, don’t tell me what to do. Second of all, I’m not whining. My point is exactly that it’s not the end of the world. It’s your government that is acting like the end of the world.

        It’s pretty sad when the government’s response to a storm of dubious strength is to pack up, shut down, and go hide. Isn’t this the greatest city ever? I thought New Yorkers were tough and resilient.

  • Batman

    Where exactly? I’ll join you.

  • IgnoranteElephante

    Essentially, the philosophy is “everybody run and hide.” Next, they’ll tell us they’re suspending the police and fire department. I’ve never saw the entire government shirk their responsibility before.

    The best part is nothing has happened yet, and all accounts appear to forecast Irene to hit as nothing more than a small rain storm. Meanwhile, millions of lives were disrupted, millions of dollars were wasted, and the entire metropolitan area was grinded to a stand still, not by a storm but by a bunch of rabble rousing, fear mongering, ill informed politicians, hoping to look heroic and flex their leadership muscles in the face of repeated, catastrophic weather related failures.

  • Lucius Junius Brutus

    The very idea of suspending power and travel service are counterintuitive for any city. If, as it appears, no real storm appears and rain is seasonal without severe citywide flooding, gobs and gobs of money and effort will have been flushed for nothing. The city ought to do it’s best to maintain all needed services everywhere for as long aspossible. That’s what it there for. Not to turn the switch off because coned-heads tells them it wants to preserve the shine of it’s copper wires.
    Coned is responsible to the people it contracts with and has no right to shut down service because it feels it doesn’t want to spend the money or effort to care for it’s own infrastructure. Otherwise, maybe the state should take over conedheads company since they seem incompetent to run it.

    • Batman

      Yeah, because people need to use mass transit during a Category 1 hurricane. Businesses will be shuttered anyways. And ConEd doesn’t want to spend the money to repair infrastructure if, say, an active generator is damaged by salt water.

      But please, tell us how you would handle this unprecedented situation.

    • propmgr

      And you’re an expert on this how? Flooding causes damage even to well kept equipment. coned and the MTA will do what is necessary.

  • Kanye West

    I’ve heard that some white towns down south were devastated. The only conceivable conclusion is that President Obama hates white people.

  • IgnoranteElephante

    Will they suspend my taxes for the period of time that they suspended governmental services?

  • Mike Icyrebel

    theres no one that doesnt doubt a storm is on its way, but the severity of it is in question…. the powers that be, [THE MEDIA] love playing up all these storms as doom and gloom end of the world type whackiness to bolster their ratings and win awards, so their objectivity has always been in the realm of unreliable…its a joke the few times that they’re right, they pride themselves with a song and dance and self absorbed love.. while always with an excuse when they have egg on their faces.when nature exposes them as frauds and fakes…

  • Reverend Rev

    This is outrageous!! They have NO RIGHT to shut everything down just because the Governor ordered them to.

    • Mike

      You’re stupid.

    • Jesus Christ Superstar

      Please do us all a favor and jump into the East River around midnight tonight…

    • srny

      and I think you have no right to be a moron!

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