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Windy, icy conditions may affect Friday commute, LIRR says

LIRR crews work on clearing the platform at

LIRR crews work on clearing the platform at the Mineola station during the snowstorm on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Heavy preparations and light ridership helped the Long Island Rail Road withstand the brunt of Thursday’s massive snowstorm, transportation officials said.

Friday morning, the railroad expected to run most of its usual service. But nine trains will be canceled because of capacity limitations at Jamaica, where track inspections resulting from a Wednesday morning derailment still need to be completed.

The railroad also warned that windy, icy conditions in the wake of Thursday’s storm will affect service Friday.

“There remains the potential for weather-related difficulties and challenges to affect our operations tomorrow, but we expect to continue to provide service that meets customer demands and to get people to work safely again tomorrow,” LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski, said Thursday night.

During Thursday’s storm, there were systemwide delays of up to a half-hour in the morning and evening rush hours, and more than 30 canceled trains through the day. But the LIRR remained up and running.

“Everybody who we brought into New York this morning we are going to bring home safely this afternoon,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority interim Executive Director Veronique Hakim said at a Dix Hills news conference Thursday afternoon. “We had the advantage of being prepared for this storm, but we also focused very much on Long Island and the Long Island Rail Road service we would need to provide today.”

Thursday, LIRR ridership was about 40 percent of a typical weekday — “very, very low,” Hakim said. With the trains light, the LIRR canceled 20 trains in the afternoon and evening, which allowed the LIRR to meet demand while reducing the risk of stranding trains with passengers on board, according to MTA officials.

The railroad added four trains out of Penn Station Thursday in the early afternoon to accommodate riders leaving work early.

Although in recent years the railroad has adhered to a policy of completely suspending service if 10 or more inches of snow was expected to accumulate on tracks — the amount at which connectivity with the electrified third rail could be interrupted — the LIRR has recently loosened that policy. The railroad now says that train service on “some branches may be modified or suspended” if 10 or more inches falls.

“The MTA did a very good job, I’m pleased to say,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who praised the LIRR for storing equipment overnight Wednesday to protect it and have it ready. “They had notice of the storm and they got ahead of it.”

The storm presented the latest of several railroad mishaps this week, including two separate branch suspensions Tuesday, and a train derailment Wednesday that kept two tracks out of service in Jamaica throughout Thursday. Repairs and inspections of the track were slowed by the storm, LIRR officials said.

Mike, a Greenlawn LIRR rider who declined to give his last name, said Thursday’s service issues were “tame” compared to past storms. His morning train to Penn Station was on time, and largely empty. His return trip in the evening was delayed by 30 minutes.

“It hasn’t been bad, and I’m a big complainer,” he said.

The storm challenged Long Island’s other public transportation providers. Suffolk County Transit did not operate all day. The Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, curtailed service throughout the day until shutting it down altogether at 6 p.m.

“Depending on the road conditions, NICE anticipates returning to regular scheduled service for all routes Friday morning,” NICE said in a statement.

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