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Sandy "Wreaked Havoc" on Century-Old NYC Subway

Some lines to reopen Thursday, but damage estimates will take time

- Common Dreams staff

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday said some subway and will be restored throughout New York City on Thursday, but Mass Transit Authority officials say it will be weeks before damage estimates can be assessed and timelines for full service can be determined.

The South Ferry subway station in Manhattan after it was flooded by seawater during superstorm Sandy on Tuesday. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (Photo: Associated Press / Metropolitan Transportation Authority.) On Tuesday, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota warned residents that full service would not be restored quickly because Hurricane Sandy was the most "devastating" disaster ever experienced by the 108-year-old NYC subway system.

The storm "wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region," he said, in part. "As of (Monday) night, seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded. Metro-North Railroad lost power from 59th Street to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson Line and to New Haven on the New Haven Line."

A number of tunnels remained flooded, some "from end to end," at the time, and six bus garages were disabled.

Some bus service was restored Tuesday night, and Charles Seaton, spokesman for the MTA transit system, told Huffington Post that he expected bus service to resume full capacity within days.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the bulk of the MTA's 468 stations and 600 miles of track could be out of commission for "a good four or five days," Matt Flegenheimer of The New York Times reported. Bloomberg said high water prevented inspectors from immediately assessing damage.

According to the Times the South Ferry station at the southern tip of Manhattan was filled "track to ceiling" with water.

The Associated Press added, "Experts said the cost of the repairs could be staggering. Power company Consolidated Edison said it could also be the weekend before power is restored to Manhattan and Brooklyn, perhaps longer for other New York boroughs and the New York suburbs. The recovery and rebuilding will take far longer."

Speaking to Huffington Post, Seaton said "the system did suffer a significant amount of damage" from the storm.

To get the system back up and running, "water has to be pumped out, (we) have to remove components, clean them, replace them and repair them as needed ... and reassemble everything and run test trains. It's going to be a lengthy process."

David Caruso of The Associated Press reports that a report released last year estimated that "a flood roughly comparable to the one that hit the city Monday night would do $10 billion in damage to the transportation infrastructure and cause another $40 billion in economic losses due to the paralyzing effects of a crippled transit system."

Caruso continued:

Klaus Jacob, an environmental disaster expert at Columbia University who oversaw the portion of the report dealing with transit disruptions, told Caruso the study estimated that it would take four weeks to get the subway system back to 90 percent of normal capacity.

‘‘I'm not saying that this is definitely what is going to happen here,’’ he cautioned.

But he said the transit authority’s challenges are severe.

‘‘In the tunnels under the East River, all the signal-and-control systems are underwater. And it is salt water,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not just that it doesn’t work right now. It all has to be cleaned, dried, reassembled and tested. And we are not sure what the long-term corrosion effect might be.’’

Specialists from the Army Corps of Engineers are working to clear the system — the first time the team has been asked to help clear water outside of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, according to The NYT.

Lhota said Wednesday that the MTA loses about $18 million in revenue daily while the subway is offline.

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