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Railroad, airports, buses shut down service because of winter blast

Buses were in service during the snowstorm early

Buses were in service during the snowstorm early Monday in Long Beach, but service later shut down. Credit: Johnny Milano

The unrelenting winter storm crippled the region's transportation system — forcing the shutdown of the LIRR, area airports, bus service in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and aboveground subway lines.

Transportation officials pleaded with commuters and motorists to stay off the roads and rails, as the impact from the storm was expected to last well into Tuesday.

Roadways were battered by the nor'easter, with more than 100 car accidents reported by the afternoon, and plow-truck drivers struggling to keep up with the piling, wind-driven snow.

"Just from a safety and practicality point of view, you should not be on the roads, period," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday at a news conference, where he was joined by Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority leaders. "If you leave the house, you may not be able to get back."

The Long Island Rail Road, which was following a weekend schedule Monday, began the day with relatively few issues, other than some delays caused by switch problems. But as the storm intensified, and delays and cancellations worsened, the LIRR took the rare step of suspending all service, beginning around 2:30 p.m.

Speaking to Long Island News Radio ahead of the announcement, LIRR president Phillip Eng said a suspension would only come if the electrified third rail became "fully covered" in snow.

The suspension would be temporary and "just to get crews in there to help clear the snow so we can safely move trains and make sure that we don’t have any stranded trains," Eng said.

The MTA also suspended outdoor subway service in the five boroughs. New York City Transit interim president Sarah Feinberg said regular service would resume "as soon as it’s safe to do so."

The storm made for increasingly harrowing commuting on Long Island.

Nassau police had recorded 68 accidents by 2:30 p.m., including a truck towing a five-car carrier that jackknifed on the Long Island Expressway in the Syosset-Jericho area, closing four westbound lanes. The driver sustained a minor injury, and no other cars were involved in the crash, a Nassau police spokesman said.

Suffolk County police had responded to 57 car crashes by noon Monday, a spokeswoman said.

Traffic cameras midday Monday showed snow accumulating on the Long Island Expressway and the Northern and Southern State parkways, bringing the pace of traffic to a crawl for the handful of motorists out braving trips.

Cuomo warned that the storm also could lead to the closures of the Long Island Expressway and Northern State parkways. "We’re not closing them at this point, but if the storms comes as is projected, the plows will not be able to keep up," he said.

LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports also suspended operations, according to Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who said Kennedy was dealing with a weather-related electrical issue. He said more than 90% of flights in and out of the airports had been canceled, and that "a good percentage of the few remaining flights are likely to be canceled, as well."

The storm nixed nearly all flights in and out of Long Island MacArthur Airport on Monday, airport Commissioner Shelley LaRose-Arken said. Whether flights resume Tuesday depends on the course of the storm, she said, and how much ice it brings to the airstrips.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, suspended service beginning at 1 p.m. Monday. Ahead of the storm, Suffolk County Transit suspended bus service for Monday.

The Island’s two major ferry providers — the Cross Sound Ferry out of Orient Point and the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company — canceled Monday's departures.

Amtrak announced suspended train service between New York and Boston, and between Penn Station and Albany.

The MTA took precautions at its bridges and tunnels, where tractor trailers and tandem trucks were banned starting at 6 a.m. Monday. All noncritical roadwork was suspended until after the storm.

With Scott Eidler

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