Updated: Transit systems prepare for Hurricane Irene

Posted on August 26, 2011


View a satellite movie of Hurricane Irene courtesy of NOAA NASA GOES project here.

UPDATE: The following story has been updated on Aug. 26 at 10:00 a.m. with further information on Maryland MTA and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority

With Hurricane Irene forecasted to bring havoc to the eastern part of the U.S. from the Carolinas to Maine, area transit agencies are taking precautions to keep service running, and in some cases, provide evacuation services.

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is preparing for the threat of sustained high winds, heavy rain and possible evacuations posed by Hurricane Irene.

"Potentially dangerous storms like Hurricane Irene require all state agencies to be prepared to lend assistance. The MTA is ready to aid the people of Maryland wherever our help is needed," said MTA Administrator Ralign T. Wells.

Storms packing sustained high winds and heavy rain can also pose challenges to a number of MTA services. Light rail, subway and local bus can all be affected by flooding. MTA operators are being instructed to use caution and reduce speeds where necessary this weekend to ensure safe travel.

High winds are another serious concern for the MTA because they can topple trees onto rail lines and the overhead catenary wires which provide power to light rail trains. MTA technicians will be monitoring the system for power outages and debris on the tracks.

MTA will continue to operate as long as weather conditions permit, but customers should be aware that some services may be scaled back for public and employee safety, if conditions warrant.

Meanwhile, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) is planning for this weekend's expected pass of Hurricane Irene and the winds and rain that may accompany it late Saturday and into Sunday morning.

Metro is taking steps in advance to prevent service disruptions. Specifically:

  • Crews have placed more than 2,000 sandbags around the escalators at Metrorail stations that have a history of flooding issues.
  • All drainage pumping stations are being checked in advance of the storm and will be monitored throughout the weekend.
  • Plant maintenance staff is clearing drainage areas near stations and yards.
  • Additional support personnel have been scheduled to be on duty throughout the weekend to respond to any situations that may arise.
  • Chainsaws are being deployed in Metro vehicles for use in the event of downed trees.

"We're putting all of our resources in place to address any issues that arise out of the extreme weather conditions this weekend," said Metro GM/CEO Richard Sarles. "We will be updating our customers through our website, Twitter, email alerts and the media."

Metro maintenance personnel have delivered more than 2,000 sandbags at stations that historically have had water flow above the curb, down the escalators into stations. Supervisors will monitor critical locations, such as bus garages, parking garages, and flood-prone areas throughout the weekend.

METRO Magazine will provide updates as more information becomes available.

To view CNN's state-by-state report on hurricane preparations, click here.


The Maryland MTA is assisting in the evacuation of Ocean City workers by providing buses to transport the evacuees. As of 7:00 a.m. Friday, the MTA completed 36 evacuation trips with an average of 50 passengers per bus. A total of 40 buses have been used in the operation including 23 of the MTA's 60-foot diesel electric hybrid buses. The first buses left Baltimore at 10:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

Seventeen MTA Commuter Buses are also being used to transport people to the Western Shore.

"We train for potentially dangerous storms like Hurricane Irene, so we are ready to respond to any emergency. While safety is always our top priority, the MTA is ready to aid the people of Maryland wherever our help is needed." MTA Administrator Ralign T. Wells said,

The evacuees were transported to several locations including Towson State University in Towson, Md. and the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore. The evacuation operation is expected to wind down this morning, but MTA buses will remain at Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, Md. until the last evacuees have left Ocean City.

The MTA is also moving ahead with Emergency Preparedness Planning. Extra maintenance, operations and administrative staff has been assigned to ensure continuity of our services this weekend. MTA crews have tested back-up generators and other emergency equipment that will be deployed as needed.

The MTA will continue to operate its regular service as long as weather conditions permit, but customers should be aware that some services may be scaled back if conditions warrant for public and employee safety. Should any service disruptions occur, MTA crews will make repairs as soon as possible. Passengers are urged to check the MTA website for information on possible route diversions or service disruptions due to flooding or power outages.


The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released the following statement:

The MTA is actively preparing for the impact of Hurricane Irene, coordinating with the Governor's Office, Mayor's Office and regional OEMs consistent with our Hurricane Plan. We are making arrangements to bring in extra personnel over the weekend, preparing our facilities and infrastructure by clearing drains, securing work sites against possible high winds, checking and fueling equipment, stocking supplies, and establishing plans to move equipment and supplies away from low-lying areas as needed. Because of the severity of the wind and rain associated with a hurricane, there may be partial or full shut down of our services to ensure the safety of our customers and employees. We are also prepared to implement evacuation plans if the Mayor and Governor decide that is necessary. We urge our customers to check mta.info frequently and to consider the impacts of this storm when making travel plans through the weekend.


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