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LIRR halted, still affected by storm

An electronic sign at the railroad station in

An electronic sign at the railroad station in Ronkonkoma alerts passengers that LIRR service will be suspended system-wide. (Oct. 28, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

The trains may not be running, but the Long Island Rail Road is already starting to feel the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

At Island Park Station -- which saw the worst flooding during Tropical Storm Irene -- tracks were already submerged by Monday afternoon, and surrounding parking lots were under more than a foot of water.

It was a similar scene at Oyster Bay Station, where the white parking lines were barely visible under several inches of water.

The LIRR had already completed most of its storm-preparations by Sunday, including powering down the third rail, escalators and elevators, securing crossing gates and trash receptacles and wrapping up some ticket vending machines in plastic. Nearly 300 extra crew members were working, officials said.

Trains were also moved out of harm's way. There were no trains to be found at the railroad's Long Beach yard Monday afternoon.

LIRR spokesman Sal Arena said the agency was not ready to discuss when it would restore service, although customer assistance personnel were scheduled to be on hand at "locations to be identified" on Wednesday morning.

Once the storm does leave the area, the LIRR will likely have to deal with downed trees and utility poles over tracks, damaged communications and signal lines, and the loss of power to station announcement systems and crossing gates. The railroad already responded to a report of a tree down at the Love Lane crossing in Mattituck.

City subways, buses and the Metro-North Railroad also remained suspended. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in a statement that "the duration of the service suspension is unknown, and there is no timetable for restoration."

"Service will be restored only when it is safe to do so, and after careful inspections of all equipment, tracks and other subsystems," the MTA said. "Even with minimal damage this is expected to be a lengthy process."

MTA officials warned that potential flooding inside some subway tunnels could delay a restoration of train service for several days.

Transit officials said that station entrances and sidewalk vents in low lying areas, including Manhattan, are particularly vulnerable to flooding, even after crews have boarded some of them up.

The authority does have pumps to remove water from the stations, but those pumps will not work in an electrical outage.

MTA officials added that corrosive salt water can damage track switches, some of which may need to be removed in order to be repaired or completely replaced.

Just pumping out the water from subway tunnels could take up to four days, MTA officials said.

NICE Bus also advised its customers that "service will be restored only when it is safe to do so."

At NICE's Rockville Centre yard, buses were packed side-by-side and bumper-to-bumper all the way to the garage door. The only buses out around Nassau on Monday were being used to evacuate residents. In an Island Park parking lot, bus operators waited for orders to pick up evacuees using Able-Ride minibuses. Those passengers would then be transferred to a standard sized NICE bus in the parking lot, and taken to a shelter.

Suffolk public works director Gilbert Anderson said he expected Suffolk County Transit bus service to remain suspended on Tuesday, but could be back on Wednesday with delays and cancellations.

Amtrak announced on Monday afternoon that service on its Northeast Corridor would remain suspended on Tuesday.

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