If Hurricane Irene arrives as expected, some significant service disruptions may be coming for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and MTA Chairman Jay Walder cautioned Thursday that trains and buses may shut down altogether. NY1’s Tina Redwine filed the following report.
It’s tough for officials to predict how Hurricane Irene is going to impact the city, but Jay Walder, chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Thursday it’s a safe bet that it won’t be pretty.
“What we have here is a storm with projected winds that would exceed the level at which the MTA can safely operate services,” said Walder. “So if the projections hold right now, the MTA would expect to suspend services on all of our services for a period of time.”
Walder said the shutdown would be to protect equipment and people from the punishing effects of Irene. He said it will take a minimum of eight hours to move equipment to safe havens where it could ride out the storm and that it would take some time for the system to return to normal as a result.
He added that it’s the only course of action but said that trains and buses will be available to move people out of danger before they shut down.
“If the governor and the mayor decide to call an evacuation, we will work to effectuate that evacuation in the city and in the region in advance of shutting down the systems,” said Walder.
Meanwhile, out in the field, MTA employees are checking and refueling equipment, bringing in extra personnel and moving equipment and supplies from low-laying areas.
“My maintainers are going out there making sure the drains are clear and the equipment is operating as designed,” said Paul Schuber, an MTA general superintendent.
Managers are working 12 hour shifts and all vacation time has been cancelled.
Schuber said that a control center will be monitoring the subway for flooding and that emergency response vehicles with pumps are being readied
After 2007, when the subway ground to a halt from flooding, the MTA installed raised grates which officials say have helped minimize flooding on the tracks, especially in Queens.
Schuber said passengers' garbage remains a problem, however.
“Sooner or later, that debris will work its way down into the drain boxes and block any water that has to get in. The customers could help us if they take out the garbage they bring in,” said Schuber.
That could limit the flooding and help the system get back on track following the worst storm it's ever had to face.