NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Saturday that it is considering shutting down all service beginning Sunday night in advance of the Hurricane Sandy “Frankenstorm.”
If service shuts down, the process would begin at 7 p.m. Sunday, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said at a Saturday afternoon news conference.
“If it’s a decision to have a curtailment of service, that curtailment of service would start at 7 p.m. Sunday night, tomorrow night,” Lhota said.
All service would be stopped by 3 a.m. Monday, Lhota said.
Lhota advised everyone to return home by 7 p.m. Sunday, because there will be no guarantee of service on the MTA system afterward.
“If it continues as where we are – and we’re talking tropical storm winds sometime Sunday night into Monday morning, as well as a surge of 4 to 8 feet, it’s of great concern to the entire transportation system in New York,” he said.
Commuter trains could also be suspended beginning Sunday night, Lhota said.
The last Metro-North train would leave at 7 p.m., as would the last Long Island Railroad train from Penn Station.
But Lhota emphasized that the service shutdown is dependent on conditions, and said he hopes the plan does not have to be put in effect.
“We are preparing for the worst,” he said. “We are hoping for the best.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the MTA and the Port Authority to come up with contingency plans for the storm, according to New York director of state operations Howard Glaser.
“The transit system is particularly vulnerable to water and to wind. It takes time to plan for any change in services to the system,” Glaser said.
He said closing a system is a “last resort,” but it is important to be prepared.
The MTA said previously its hurricane plan calls for “an orderly shutdown of service before the arrival of sustained winds of 39 mph or higher.
The MTA did cancel planned subway service changes for construction projects this weekend, with the exception of changes planned for the 7 and J lines. They are scheduled through Saturday only.
Crews have inspected and cleared drains and pump rooms throughout the subway system as well as checking and cleaning flood-prone areas, officials said.
Crews have also prepared to remove trains from outdoor yards, cover subway ventilation grates vulnerable to flooding and move buses that normally park in low-lying depots to higher ground.
Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road personnel were stockpiling material, clearing culverts, ditches and swales of debris and getting together pumps, cranes, generators, and other equipment, officials said.
The MTA said crews will be prepared to remove gates from LIRR crossings in advance of the storm if necessary, to protect them from high winds. Service must be suspended if crossing gates are to be removed.
The MTA was also taking precautions at its bridges and tunnels. Drains were being cleared, construction areas were being secured, backup generators were being put in place and response vehicles were being readied to help motorists who may become stranded.
Click here for more information and to monitor any further changes of MTA service.
Amtrak has also announced cancellations to trips scheduled for Sunday, in advance of Hurricane Sandy. Passengers were encouraged to travel on earlier trains as the storm continued to move north.
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In New Jersey, Governor Christie and transit officials announced that preparations were underway for a potential shutdown of NJ Transit bus, rail, light rail, and Access Link service beginning on Monday.
“The safety of our customers, employees and the public-at-large is paramount,” said NJ Transit Board Chairman and New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson.
The shutdown would take a minimum of twelve hours to complete and would require the relocation of a number of NJ Transit assets away from flood-prone areas.
Governor Christie announced on Saturday that NJ Transit would be cross-honoring rail, bus, and light rail tickets starting at 12:00 a.m. on Monday and continuing through 6 a.m. on Wednesday.
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New York State officials have also ordered construction sites to be secured. The state will require nursing homes to bring staffing levels up to 150 percent of normal levels, since there is no guarantee of transportation, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said.
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