Leaving Huntington Station on Jan. 12

Leaving Huntington Station on Jan. 12 Credit: MCT/Alejandra Villa

Grading the Long Island Rail Road's storm response is one of the region's great pastimes, along with judging snow removal like it's an Olympic sport.

Tuesday, the LIRR canceled service east of Speonk and Ronkonkoma for that evening and the next morning before a flake fell - a move that may draw criticism, since this storm ended up being fairly manageable.

Over the past few years, the LIRR has moved away from the "run and rescue" mantra - in which trains roll no matter what - toward ensuring that trains that could end up snowbound never depart. That philosophy factored in the decision to shut down the system during last month's blizzard.

But this case was different. The LIRR cancelled those lightly traveled eastern routes, run by diesels, so the trains would be available to run the four main routes normally handled by electric trains if snow caused power problems. The LIRR ran 75 percent of its total weekday schedule Wednesday, but some riders still had trains cancelled in weather they'll probably say didn't merit it.

The LIRR, hopefully, learns from every storm. Sometimes it snows more than predicted, sometimes less, and reacting to weather is more art than science. Like an artist, the LIRR should work to perfect its technique - even when, in a storm, it can't always result in a pretty picture. hN