The MTA is scrambling to restore service by morning rush hour tomorrow — but flooding in subway tunnels and water damage to trains and buses could keep most of the system shut for four days, officials said yesterday.
And forget about riding the subways today. “There’s no chance mass transit will be back in time,’’ said Mayor Bloomberg.
Most major bridges and tunnels are expected to remain closed or under speed restrictions though the morning, and airlines will not resume flights until winds have died down.
But taxis were doing great: The Taxi & Limousine Commission said that 2,804 cabs provided 4,218 trips just between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. yesterday.
Meanwhile, transit crews spent yesterday battening down the hatches to slow water from entering subway stations, but it likely won’t be enough to stop flooding.
“Our subway system and saltwater do not mix very well together,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota.
Officials also worry that the underground pump system designed to remove water could short-circuit.
It could take anywhere from 14 hours to four days to clear water from the tunnels, officials said.
After that, the agency would still need to restore signals and equipment.
The MTA could bring back bus service sometime late tonight, as it did after Tropical Storm Irene last year.
Many bus drivers are sitting in depots, ready to roll as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
Some areas of the subway system are more vulnerable than others.
Those include the Bowling Green and South Ferry stations in flood-prone lower Manhattan.
The 3 line — which starts in Harlem — is also in jeopardy because the yard where the trains are stored is at river level.
Much of The Bronx’s subway service is elevated and could be restored the quickest.
Before any subway trains can roll, though, workers must inspect all 468 stations and hundreds of miles of tracks.
Commuter rails haven’t fared any better. LIRR and Metro-North crews, too, must inspect miles of tracks before service is resumed.
Large stretches of Metro-North tracks were already flooded — before the strongest parts of the storm rolled in.
Most of the area’s major bridges — including the Verrazano, George Washington, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, Triborough and Queensboro — closed yesterday evening.
The Holland Tunnel and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, too, were closed.
It’s the first time the Brooklyn Battery — recently renamed the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel — has closed in its 62-year history.
NJ Transit, PATH, and commuter bus lines were suspended, with no reopening dates set.
And the area airports were mostly ghost towns yesterday, with schedule boards showing thousands of canceled flights.
A handful of stranded fliers and homeless people sought shelter inside.
At the Central Terminal in La Guardia, ticket counters were empty and the electronic check-in kiosks were covered with plastic. So were luggage X-ray machines.
“It’s better to be here because here we can see the real news. And we can check the flights,” said Diego Branati, 36, a tourist from Italy.
Kim Wells, 50, a nurse from Raleigh, NC, was also one of the unlucky ones stuck at the airport.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “Last night, we confiscated wheelchairs because they’re more comfortable to sleep on.”
Nearly all Amtrak service on the East Coast and west to Chicago was suspended.