Hurricane Sandy: The Superstorm

Preparing for Hurricane Sandy

To prepare for the storm, New York MTA crews inspected and cleared main drains and pump rooms throughout the subway system and personnel checked and cleaned all known flood-prone locations.

Extra workers and managers were prepared to staff New York City Transit’s Incident Command Center, situation room, satellite desks, depot operations and facility operations as necessary. The Incident Command Center was activated starting at 8 a.m., 10/28/12.

Bus operators moved buses that normally park in low-lying depots to areas of higher ground.

Trains were removed from outdoor yards prone to flooding and moved to more secure locations. Subway ventilation grates vulnerable to flooding were sandbagged and tarped over. Many station entrances and ventilation grates in low-lying areas were successfully modified in recent years to raise them above street level, making it more difficult for floodwaters to enter the system.

All portable pumps and emergency response vehicles were checked, fueled and made ready for service.

Shutting Down Systems

The Christie Administration announced that NJ Transit would implement a gradual system-wide shutdown of all bus, rail, light rail and Access Link service, starting at 4:00 p.m., 10/28/12 and continuing through 2:00 a.m. on Monday morning, 10/29/12. The Administration also announced that the Atlantic City Rail Line suspended operations effective at 4:00 p.m. due to the rapidly declining weather conditions within the region and the continued evacuation of Atlantic City.

The systematic shutdown of NJ Transit service would require a minimum of 12 hours to complete. The process required the relocation and securing of buses, rail equipment and other NJ Transit assets away from flood-prone areas.

MTA New York City Transit system-wide suspension began at 7 p.m. on 10/28/12.

All bus and subway services suspended service in anticipation of the high winds and heavy rains driven by Hurricane Sandy. Thousands of buses and subway cars were pulled from service and stored in safe locations. Subway yards and bus depots that are prone to flooding were cleared and that equipment sent to dry areas. Subway stations in flood-prone locations, such as lower Manhattan, were evacuated of personnel and then secured.

Storm Damage

For the New York MTA, all seven of the subways tunnels under the rivers were flooded. MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota stated, “The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region. It has brought down trees, ripped out power and inundated tunnels, rail yards and bus depots.”

“The NJ Transit system has experienced unprecedented devastation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Destruction summarizes the impact to rails, rail yards, bus depot and critical operation centers”, said NJ Transit Board Chairman and NJ Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson. “With the break of daylight, NJ Transit began to inspect and assess the full extent of the damage. Our employees are committed to restoring the system as safely and efficiently as humanly possible.”

NJ Transit’s Rail Operations Center — the central nervous system of the railroad — was engulfed in water, which damaged backup power supply systems, the emergency generator, and the computer system that controls the movement of trains and power supply. There were numerous downed trees across the rail system, which caused damage to overhead wires and signal wires.

There were rail washouts across the system, including on the North Jersey Coast Line and Atlantic City Rail Line. Several rail stations were flooded, including Hoboken Terminal.

Morgan Drawbridge on the North Jersey Coast Line in South Amboy sustained damage from boats and a trailer that collided into the bridge.

Newark Light Rail sustained flooding in Newark Penn Station, as well as major debris damage between Newark Penn and Branch Brook Park stations.

Repairing and Restoring Service

On 10/31/12 NJ Transit bus service began operating in Camden only, on a weekday schedule. While the destructive and deadly storm was gone, it left behind long-term mechanical and operational challenges. NJ Transit restored the majority of its bus service and limited Access Link paratransit service on 11/1/12. River Line light rail service also resumed operations at this time.

On 11/4/12, NJ Transit restored limited service on four additional rail lines.

The Christie Administration announced an emergency bus plan to transport residents to their jobs for 11/5/12. It provided transportation options for NJ Transit customers, with access to ferries, light rail and employment in Hoboken, Weehawken, Jersey City and Manhattan. The temporary emergency service was anticipated to provide approximately 50 percent of NJ Transit’s normal rail rush hour service.

By 11/19/12, all but one NJ Transit rail lines was fully or partially restored. This included the restoration of service along the North Jersey Coast Line, which suffered the brunt of the damage. “The restoration of NJ Transit’s rail lines within 18 days of Sandy is a tremendous credit to the commitment, professionalism and the dedication of our employees,” said NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein. “In this time of Thanksgiving, I would like to specifically offer our thanks to our employees for their service, as well as to customers for their patience and understanding during this difficult time.”

For the MTA Metro-North Railroad’s Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines, nearly normal rail service was being restored.