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Monday, October 29, 2012

East River bridges ordered closed at 7 p.m. as storm nears

Even if you wanted to drive, there’s nowhere to go.

Nearly all of the city’s bridges, tunnels and major roadways began shutting down as Hurricane Sandy brought worsening winds and rains Monday. And flooding could shutter certain subway lines — particularly those that pass beneath the East River — for days, according to the MTA.

The FDR Drive was blocked earlier today when water crashed over the seawall, and will be closed from the Battery to 155th Street beginning at 6 p.m.

Port Authority is closing the lower-level of the George Washington Bridge immediately and the Upper Level at 7 p.m.

The Whitestone Bridge, Throggs Neck Bridge, Verrazano- Narrows Bridge, George Washington Bridge, Henry Hudson Bridge, Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge will all close at 7 pm.

The city, meanwhile, also is closing four East River bridges at 7 p.m. and they will remain closed until further notice, officials said. They are the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro bridges.

Additionally, the city Transportation Department is closing the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge in Queens, in coordination with the MTA's closure of the Cross Bay Bridge.

The bridges were closed as winds approached 60 mph. There are weather forecasts for gusts as high as 90 mph, Cuomo said.

Gov. Cuomo closed the Hugh Carey Tunnel (Brooklyn-Battery) and the Holland Tunnel closed at 2 p.m., and the Tappan Zee Bridge closed at4 p.m.

The Lincoln and Queens-Midtown Tunnels, remain open for now.

There was no traffic on the Bronx River Parkway.

Cuomo urged everyone to stay off the roads and stay indoors.

"Don't be fooled," he said. "The worst is still coming."

Kennedy LaGuardia and Newark airports are open, but all flights have been cancelled, the Port Authority said.

According to FlightAware, a flight tracking service, there are 7,118 flights cancelled in the U.S. Monday — 993 to or from Newark, 972 at Kennedy, and 918 at LaGuardia.

Right now, the entire subway and bus system operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which moves about 7 million people a day — is shut down until further notice.

The MTA's two railroads — the largest in the country — are also shut down: Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.

The MTA began winding down subway and railroad service Sunday night at 7 p.m., and bus service Sunday night at 9 p.m.

How long the subway remains shut down depends on a number of factors, including the extend of flooding and damage. The MTA estimates it could take anywhere between 14 hours and four days just to pump out all the water.

Only then could the MTA then start inspecting, repairing or replacing signals, switches and other equipment, the MTA said.

Columbia University Professor Klaus Jacob, who has studied the potential impact of a major hurricane on the subway, on Monday said there was a 50-50 chance that the city would get hit with a once-in-a-century storm with the sea level rising to about 11 feet.

Pumping out the water that would deluge the subway system, and repairing the damaged equipment, could take weeks, Jacob said. MTA efforts to keep the surging tide out of the system, like barricading station entrances, could limit the impacts, Jacob said, although he said he was skeptical they would be very effective in the face of such a deluge.

The last time under-river tunnels flooded was in December 1992. Service on all lines were suspended and three tunnels filled with water, the MTA said. Some service was restored later that day but the Canarsie Tube carrying the L line under the East River was out of commission for several days.

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