Saturday, August 27, 2011

NYC transit system to close in anticipation for hurricane Irene

For the first time ever the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates the New York City Subway, Bus, and Commuter Railroads, is intentionally shutting down its Bus and Subway operations in anticipation for one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit New England since hurricane Bob in 1991. The MTA's step-by-step hurricane protection plan, which was devised in 2007, calls for a all service to be offline at least 12 hours before the storm makes landfall in the city. There will also be an evacuation period that would last about 10-12 hours, during daylight, before the shutdown. This will allow residents and tourists to use the system if they would like to leave the city.

Safety is the MTA's top priority in the situation. They are making sure their employes and engineers will have adequate time after the shutdown to make it to a safe place to ride out the storm. Employees have also been swiftly stockpiling supplies like sandbags and completing last minute  maintenance projects like clearing drains and moving sensitive equipment to higher ground. After the shutdown each station will be searched to make sure no one is left behind in an elevator or bathroom, and then gates or barricade tape will go up to block stairways at the street level. The MTA is also encouraging their employees to carry bags with them that have extra food, water, and clothes incase they have to stay on duty for longer periods. 

The largest risk for the system is not what everyone may think. It's not the high winds, flying debris, or even heavy raining fall. It is the surging from the ocean that can flow right into, and flood, the subway tunnels. There are handfuls of tunnels that run under rivers or through lower Manhattan that are guaranteed to flood during a category 1 hurricane. The MTA is planning on having service running again by Monday but that may change with how much damage the system sustains. The only other time the MTA had to terminate all subway service was during a Nor'Easter in 1992 that sent surges into a ConEdison station which cut all power to the system.

A flooded Kenmore station in 1996. 
Well enough about New York. Some of you are probably wondering "well if New York's shutting down is the MBTA?" The answer to that is not yet. As of 4:00pm this afternoon, I am currently riding on the commuter rail home to Lowell, the MBTA has no plan to alter any of it's services. In anticipation for the storm the T is beefing up all inspections of their backup generations, tunnel pump rooms, and poor drainage areas. They are also keeping a very close eye on the Fenway portal on the "D" branch of the Green Line. They have been inspecting pumps and surveying dam equipment so they can be prepared if then need to shut off the portal. The portal and Kenmore station was the sight of the last MBTA tunnel flood which occurred in october of 1996.

The dam at Fenway last year!
The dam system that is in place currently at the portal was put into place in the early sixties after a massive rainfall caused the Muddy River to breach its banks and flow water right into the portal. This is also what happened in 1996. The reason the dam did not work in this situation (1996) is because MBTA engineers could not figure out the proper way to build it. Today, however, the MBTA does know how to use the dam system so that Kenmore station will never again have to be submerged in over 20 feet of water. If the dam is needed to overt the course of water, the MBTA will use buses to shuttle commuters from Kenmore station to Reservoir station.

Another large concern for the MBTA during this weekends storm is flooding of tracks. This could eventually lead to sink holes or washouts. In march of last year the MBTA has an incident, once again on the "D" branch of the Green Line, in which heavy rain caused a portion of earth and gravel ballast to wash away, leaving a large portion of trackage suspended in mid air.

The T seems like they are taking this storm very seriously so hopefully no big incidents will occur this weekend. If you are planning on using the MBTA subway, bus, or commuter rail system this weekend (Im not sure who would want to leave their homes) make sure you check before you head out the door. They will be posting down to the second alerts for the entire system all weekend!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...