Winter storm Nemo: Metro-North suspends service; air and road travel paralyzed

Commuters clean off their cars after disembarking from Commuters clean off their cars after disembarking from an NJ Transit train at the station in Nanuet. (Feb. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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Metro-North said it would suspend service at 10 p.m. Friday with travel by road, rail and air in a virtual lockdown Friday evening as the worst of a fierce Northeast blizzard swept through the Hudson Valley.

"With the significant increase in snowfall and high winds, the risk of a train becoming disabled with customers on board also increases significantly," Metro-North wrote in a statement. "Therefore, it is important to stop service at this time to ensure customer safety and to allow Metro-North employees to conduct aggressive snow fighting operations to keep the right of way as clear as possible. Road conditions have also deteriorated, with many road closures in Metro-North's service territory."

Service on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines was being suspended "until further notice," the agency said.

"Shutting down the system allows Metro-North to secure and protect its equipment and infrastructure from the significant snowfall and high winds expected to hit the region."

At Westchester County Airport, runways were clear, but only a handful of corporate jets dared to take off during a storm that packed winds of 65 mph and dumped 16 inches of snow on the region.

The monster storm, Nemo, caused thousands of canceled flights from New York to Maine as major airlines shut down service at least through Saturday morning.

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Throughout the day, the MTA was urging Metro-North travelers to leave early or risk delays Friday evening, while workers cleared snow off tracks.

Amtrak suspended northbound service out of Penn Station following the departures of Northeast Regional Train 86 at 12:30 p.m. and the 1:03 p.m. Acela Express train.

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The City of Poughkeepsie stopped all city bus services at 4 p.m. Friday and all city bus transit was canceled for Saturday. Service on Westchester County's Bee-Line buses were to shut down at 9 p.m. Friday, with the last buses going out at 7 p.m. Buses were expected to be back on a regular schedule Saturday morning, but scattered delays were likely, a county official said.

Some 4,700 flights across the northeast had been canceled through Saturday. United Airlines said it has canceled 900 flights for Friday. Delta Air Lines canceled 740. American Airlines was scrapping about 200.

Airlines are expected to issue so-called "weather waivers," allowing passengers flying in the storm-affected areas to change their flight date without paying a change fee.

ACCIDENTS LITTER SLIPPERY ROADS

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As snow accumulated, New York State Police reported dozens of accidents on highways, including one that involved two cars sliding off I-84 near New Windsor and another involving an overturned vehicle on the same road. A single fatality was reported in Poughkeepsie, where a car hit and killed a pedestrian midday.

"It's nothing big yet and hopefully won't be," said Sgt. Ronald Warner, with the State Police Troop T headquarters in Albany. "We're advising people to stay off the roads."

State Police said they would "sporadically" close stretches of Interstate 84, Interstate 684 and the Taconic State Parkway on Friday evening to allow plows to clear snow. Vehicles that become stranded on the roadways will be impounded and towed, officials said.

State and county police officers were working overtime to insure that roads remained clear and passable. Only a few minor accidents were reported as of 8 p.m.

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The five bridges operated by the New York State Bridge Authority were accident-free, although the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge was operating with a 35 mph speed restriction, said Bridge Authority spokesman John Bellucci.

The Bridge Authority's spans will likely stay open during the storm, Bellucci said.

"The only way we would close a bridge is if there are sustained winds of 60 miles per hour or more, which we're not expecting," he said.

With The Associated Press and Ron Bittner

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