After the Storm
The MTA's transportation network is back in operation following the Holiday Blizzard of 2010, even as round-the-clock work continues to clear snow and ice from rails, switches, signals, platforms and yards, and to put more buses into service.
Even before the snow began to fall, MTA crews were mobilizing to fan out across the MTA's 5,000-square-mile region to combat the storm. As we all have learned, it was one of the most severe storms in the history of the region, dumping up to 29 inches of snow across the MTA's service territory, as lingering winds of more than 50 miles per hour blew freshly cleared snow and created drifts of up to five feet.
During and after the storm, MTA employees have worked around the clock, frequently in harsh conditions, to bring service back. They have cleared snow off of blocked rails, platforms and stairways, de-iced frozen switches and third rails, and freed trapped vehicles. Crews used snow shovels and snow throwers in vulnerable portions of the system such as the Bronx' Dyre Avenue Line, the Rockaways in Queens and the Sea Beach Line in Brooklyn. They are continuing until service is fully restored. Crews also worked 24 hours a day to clear snow from stations, with special focus on staircases and outdoor platforms. MTA Bridges and Tunnels was able to lend a portion of its fleet of 102 snow-fighting trucks to help get clear buses that had become stuck.
Despite operating with special third rail contact shoes, the level of snow in many cases rose far above the third rail that powers the MTA's trains, preventing them from moving. The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad used jet-engine-powered heaters blasting hot air to melt ice from switches in yards and heavy-duty snow brooms and jet air blowers to clear snow away from tracks. The railroads used special equipment to spray anti-freeze on the third rail with anti-freeze to help keep it clear of ice. One particularly vulnerable part of infrastructure is the gears in the switches, the moving pieces of track that allow trains to change from one track to another. They were treated with ethylene/propylene glycol to keep them it free of ice. Switch heaters, like the wiring in a heating pad, are turned on, and switches were kept moving 24/7 to help keep them from freezing, and snow and ice are manually cleared from switches. The high winds greatly hampered these efforts with drifting snow that would fill in recently cleared areas.
"I want to commend the hard work of all the MTA employees who gave up time with their families to go out into the cold to fight the snow from this record storm," said MTA Chairman Jay Walder. "Working in sub-freezing temperatures, with winds howling around you, is difficult but essential work. It is seldom appreciated as it should be."
As a result of all this hard work, service has now been restored to the vast majority of the system. Click on the Current Service Status box on the MTA homepage for the latest service status.