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Hurricane Sandy stops area transportation in tracks

Last trains on the LIRR prepare to leave

Last trains on the LIRR prepare to leave from Penn Station in Manhattan before a system-wide shutdown. (Oct. 28, 2012) Credit: Barbara Alper

The region's vast public transportation network came to a standstill Sunday night, as Long Island and New York City authorities suspended rail and bus service and urged motorists to stay off roadways in advance of Hurricane Sandy.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority shut down all of its transit agencies, including the Long Island Rail Road, subways and the Metro-North Railroad system beginning Sunday night and through Monday.

The Port Authority planned to suspend all PATH service at midnight Sunday, and both Nassau and Suffolk counties shut down bus service through Monday.

No immediate plans were announced for large-scale road closures, including the Long Island Expressway and the Island's parkways, but officials cautioned motorists that they would be monitoring conditions and could issue road closures, speed restrictions and vehicle limitations on major roads on a case-by-case basis.

At a news briefing Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo urged New Yorkers to avoid travel as Sandy bore up the coast.

"The transportation system is the lifeblood of the New York City region, and suspending all service is not a step I take lightly," Cuomo said. "But keeping New Yorkers safe is the first priority, and the best way to do that is to make sure they are out of harm's way before gale-force winds can start wreaking havoc on trains and buses. . . . Trains are designed to deal with some really rough duty. They're not intended to be submerged. . . . You don't need to be out and driving around in this."

Air travel at the region's airports, including Kennedy, LaGuardia and Long Island MacArthur, began to slow down Sunday night as cancellations abounded.

Officials had not closed the facilities, but urged travelers to check with their airlines for cancellations.

Amtrak also suspended most of its service on the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington, including service in and out of New York's Penn Station.

The slow-moving Category 1 hurricane is expected to make landfall in the region between 3 p.m. Monday and 3 a.m. Tuesday and bring heavy rains, sustained winds of as much as 50 mph and flooding in low-lying areas.

The massive shutdowns caused anxiety for Long Islanders who rely on public transportation.

At the Island Park LIRR station, Jim Corbit, 23, arrived by train from a Manhattan Halloween party and expected he would not be on another train for a while.

Island Park had the worst flooding of all of the LIRR's 124 stations during last year's Tropical Storm Irene. The low-lying station was submerged for days.

"I had to drive," said Corbit, who works as a Web designer in Manhattan and said he was prepared for the worst. "We'll see what happens, I guess."

Officials urged motorists to drive at reduced speeds and warned if sustained winds reach 30 mph on bridges, speed reductions would take effect.

If those wind speeds reach 50 mph, certain vehicles, including motorcycles and tractor trailers, would be barred from crossing bridges, which would be closed if sustained winds exceed 60 mph.

The impending storm also impeded water travel. The U.S. Coast Guard suspended boat service, including cruise ships, in and out of New York Harbor after 6 p.m. Sunday. It was unclear when boats would be allowed to return.

With Emily C. Dooley

and Ivan Pereira


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