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New York-area transit agencies were working to restore normal train and bus service for the evening rush after rain caused delays and cancellations this morning, flooding streets and rails and leaving thousands without power.
New York City Transit, operator of the country’s busiest subway, was trying to restore full service to as many lines as possible. The agency focused on the 4, 5 and 6 trains on the Lexington Avenue Line, and the N, Q, R and W trains on the Broadway Line, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director Elliot “Lee” Sander said in a televised briefing.
“I don’t remember this many lines being affected before,” said Andrew Albert, an MTA board member and chairman of the New York City Transit Riders Council. “Lines that weren’t affected before are now being affected. It was an extreme amount of water in a very short period of time. The sewers and the pumps cannot keep up with it.”
The authority is “particularly concerned” about restoring service on the B and Q lines, which were knocked out by an “extremely large” tree that fell across tracks in Brooklyn, Sander said. The subway’s Queens Boulevard Line was the most affected and will be out for the evening rush hour, which should cause problems for riders on the E, F, R and V trains, he said.
Queens Boulevard commuters should consider alternative transportation, and the authority will cancel some Long Island Rail Road trains and add cars while making additional stops to accommodate those riders, Sander said. The authority will study today’s flooding problems at the request of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, he said.
The transit agency, which runs the largest U.S. public transportation system, said trains had been delayed or suspended on all 24 subway lines at some point during the morning because of flooding.
Fifteen subway lines had restored service as of 3:45 p.m. local time, New York City Transit said on its Web site. Representatives of Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and New Jersey Transit said they expect normal rush-hour service tonight.
The delays brought criticism from commuters and officials, such as John Liu, chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, who chastised New York City Transit for failing to prepare for the storms and communicate with riders.
More than 2 1/2 inches of rain fell in the New York City area between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m., with the heaviest rain falling between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., according to the National Weather Service’s Upton, New York, office.
Weather service personnel were in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge section this afternoon assessing damage to determine whether a tornado touched down, meteorologist John Cristantello said in a telephone interview.
There is a heat advisory in effect until 6 p.m. today for the city, and conditions will be hot and humid with a chance of severe thunderstorms, the weather service said.
The storms caused at least one death, on Staten Island, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a televised news conference. No further details were available. The city is opening cooling centers to help residents displaced by the weather, and the state and federal governments have offered help, he said. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News.
Strong winds and rain toppled trees and power lines, cutting electricity to about 14,000 Consolidated Edison Inc. customers, the company said in a statement. About 2,300 customers were still without power as of about 12:30 p.m., and Con Ed is working to restore service by the end of the day. Long Island Power Authority reported about 725 of its 1.1 million customers were without power as of 12:30 p.m.
Public Service Electric & Gas, the flagship utility of Newark, New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group, had about 17,000 customers without power at the height of the storm, most of whom had service restored by mid-afternoon.
FirstEnergy Corp.’s Jersey Central Power utility had restored power to all but 3,000 of 20,000 homes and businesses that lost service after the storms this morning, spokeswoman Hannah Massaquoi said today in an interview. Most of the power failures were in Hunterdon and Warren counties, she said.
Flights at New York’s three international airports, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, were delayed an average of 46 minutes, with Newark suffering the worst delay at 89 minutes, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Murray said.
“It generally takes a couple hours for the schedules to catch up with delays,” said Pasquale DiFulco, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the three airports. “But we’re confident the airlines are doing everything they can to get things up and running.”
The city’s 311 information line, which normally receives about 4,200 calls a night, got 23,000 calls between midnight and 9 a.m. today, Bloomberg said. At least 40 homes were damaged in Brooklyn, and property damage may be more than $20 million, New York State Senator Martin J. Golden said.
With reporting by Jim Polson and Tom Randall in New York and Angela Greiling Keane and Kelly Riddell in Washington.