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MTA's entire system slammed by Sandy: Chief Joe Lhota

Hugh L. Carey Tunnel

Hugh L. Carey Tunnel Credit: Hugh L. Carey Tunnel takes on water (Getty)

Don't count on hopping on a subway anytime soon.

Hurricane Sandy's wrath caused more damage to the system's infrastructure, equipment and facilities than anything else in the agency's 108 year history, its chairman said early Tuesday morning.

The subway system "has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night," MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said in a statement. "Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region."

While the agency has just begun checking out damage, it has already found downed trees, power losses and tunnels, rail yards and bus depots that were "inundated," including at least seven subway tunnels under the East River that flooded.

The MTA's commuter lines, tunnels and bridges were also walloped by high winds and flooding, it said. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (formerly known as the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel) flooded from end to end, and the Queens Midtown Tunnel also was forced to close after it took on water. Lhota said six bus garages were "disabled" from flooding.

"We are assessing the extent of the damage and beginning the process of recovery," Lhota said. "In 108 years, our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now."

In interviews Tuesday Morning, Lhota said bus service would likely be the first to resume, and that the MTA would try to run buses along downed subway routes.

"All of us at the MTA are committed to restoring the system as quickly as we can to help bring New York back to normal," Lhota said.

MTA officials said subway lines and other services would come back "gradually."

"It won't be like flip the switch and everything is back," one official said.

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