Management & Operations

WMATA suspends service due to Hurricane Isabel

Posted on September 19, 2003

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) suspended bus and rail service Thursday due to high winds expected to arrive with Hurricane Isabel. The hurricane, which left more than 14 dead and 4.5 million homes and businesses without power, cut a path of destruction on the East Coast. Concern for the safety of customers, employees and pedestrians was the driving force behind the decision to suspend service during the height of the storm. "We want to be clear to our customers, and we think that a decision on a complete shutdown is much easier for them to understand, is less likely to result in someone being stranded within the system and is a decision based on safety," said Metro CEO Richard White. The design standards for Metrorail trains and buses are such that they can withstand winds upwards of 80 mph without sustaining damage, so "this is not an issue of our equipment integrity or reliability. This is strictly a safety issue," White said. Once winds fall below 40 mph, it would take several hours to restore rail service because track inspectors would need to walk the tracks to ensure they were clear from debris and did not sustain any damage from debris that may have landed on the tracks. Other closings included a number of Amtrak routes running south of Washington, D.C. Many routes were modified due to downed trees along the Northeast Corridor. Airlines on Thursday canceled more than 2,000 flights, and flight schedules remained disrupted on Friday.

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