LIRR trains will stop Saturday afternoon
The Long Island Rail Road will begin suspending service Friday night well in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Irene..
Other LIRR lines will run their final trains as late as 1:42 p.m. Saturday.
"Taking these pre-emptive measures before the full brunt of the storm arrives will help in the LIRR's recovery efforts after the storm passes," the railroad said in a statement.
MTA officials say they expect LIRR service to be down at least through Monday, and possibly later, as the agency repairs damage. That could include removing trees, drying out flooded rail yards and repairing downed power and signal lines.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that all MTA services, including subways, buses and the Long Island Rail Road, would be suspended at noon Saturday. LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said the agency will release details of its suspension plan, and that it is expected to take three hours or more to completely shut down the system from the time the plan is initiated.
MTA chairman Jay Walder said shutting down the LIRR far in advance of the storm is necessary to move trains and equipment from low-lying areas, including rail yards in Far Rockaway, Babylon, Long Beach and Montauk -- "all of which may be under water."
After the storm passes, Walder said he expects recovery will be "a long, difficult process." He said the agency will use state helicopters to survey damage. Walder said the agency will prioritize restoring service on certain parts of the system, and that some areas particularly devastated by the storm -- which may include the Far Rockaway and Long Beach lines -- may take longer to bring back.
Driving across bridges and tunnels may also not be an option for travelers during the hurricane.
"I can assure you that if there are 115-mph winds, those bridges are not going to be open to anybody except emergency vehicles," Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico said.
Tunnels could be similarly shut down because of flooding, Marsico said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday the city will "take a close look" at closing all city bridges once winds reach around 50 mph. The city is enacting a plan to reduce fares on taxis and allow livery cabs to make street pickups.
Bloomberg said at some point, taxis may also come off the road because of dangerous conditions.
Ferries serving New York City, including the Staten Island Ferry, may also suspend service during high winds, Bloomberg said.
Port Authority airports, including Kennedy and LaGuardia, are expected to remain open, although individual airlines will make the decision on whether to operate any flights. The airports are stocked with "hundreds of cases of bottled water, diapers, cots, blankets and pillows," and at least one food vendor must remain open around the clock throughout the storm, Marsico said.
Hundreds of thousands of airline passengers will be grounded this weekend as Hurricane Irene sweeps up the East Coast, past some of the nation's busiest airports.
American Airlines canceled 32 flights on Friday, mostly in North Carolina and Virginia, and expected to halt flights in and out of Washington DC airports -- about 150 flights a day -- around noon Saturday. Southwest Airlines planned to stop flights to and from Norfolk, Va., beginning Saturday morning.
The moment winds in the metro area hit 60 mph, all major bridges will be closed, the governor said. That's part of why he repeatedly urged residents to strongly consider leaving potential flood areas now.
"The key is early movement," Cuomo said. "People should not be deceived by the nice weather [Friday]. They should take the voluntary evacuation seriously."
Travelers are advised to go to mta.info for the latest status on MTA services.
Amtrak has canceled most service south of Washington, D.C. for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including all service in and out of Penn Station.
Suffolk County Transit also made the call on Friday afternoon to suspend all bus service beginning Saturday at 8 p.m. The two bus lines offering Sunday service in Eastern Suffolk this summer -- the S92 and 10C -- will not run.
"Hopefully on Monday, we'll be back on normal hours, but we'll play it by ear," Suffolk Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Jim Peterman said.
The Hamptons Jitney bus service expects to operate "a normal and full schedule for Friday and Saturday," but anticipates "major service disruptions or cancellations on Sunday."
The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry has suspended Sunday service.
With The Associated Press
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