Winter Weather & How it Affects Your Commute
Customers are urged to check on LIRR service before heading to train stations by monitoring the LIRR's website, listening to the latest news broadcasts and traffic reports and/or signing up for our free E-Alerts.
Preparations for the Storm
LIRR snow preparation typically includes the following actions:
- Station waiting rooms are kept open around-the-clock to provide shelter for customers waiting for trains
- Scheduled trackwork is canceled to allow LIRR forces to concentrate their efforts on storm preparation
- Switch heaters are turned on during storms to keep switches moving freely so we can continue to route trains from one track to another
- Anti-freeze trains operate throughout the LIRR system during snowstorms to help reduce icing on the third rail
- Special snow-blowing equipment is deployed to clear snow drifts
- Non-passenger trains operate along the LIRR's right-of-way to help prevent a build-up of snow
- Many of the LIRR's electric trains are equipped with special scraper shoes to help reduce icing on the third rail and ensure that electric trains can draw their power properly
- Crews pre-salt platforms before a snowstorm and clear platforms of snow after the storm ends
- Extra LIRR personnel are assigned to key locations throughout the system
Winter Weather Travel Tips
Communication is essential to helping our customers cope with the snow, ice, slippery conditions and poor visibility that are a part of our region's winter weather. In keeping with that, we have produced this winter weather guide to help you make fully informed travel plans.
During Routine Winter Weather
While we offer regularly scheduled service during routine winter weather, sub-freezing temperatures, ice and snow can affect our cars much like they affect your automobiles. We work to keep as many of our cars in service as possible, but on occasion your train may have fewer cars - and fewer seats - than usual.
When a Severe Storm Hits
While the LIRR will work to keep train service operating on all 11 branches, it may be necessary to temporarily suspend train service when snow accumulation reaches between 10 and 13 inches to avoid stranding trains and for the safety of our customers and employees. These temporary suspensions, while snow is removed from the tracks, will continue until safe and reliable service can be restored.
When a storm begins, we contact other MTA agencies as well as state, city and county organizations to make plans in the event that alternative service is needed. If conditions warrant a curtailment in service, an alternative busing program has been developed with MTA Long Island Bus, MTA New York City Transit and other public and private carriers that will direct resources where they are most needed.
Given the unpredictable nature of storm forecasting, we suggest that you pay close attention to weather reports and travel advisories during any type of storm. Check the MTA web site or call our Travel Information Center at 718-217-5477 (718-217-LIRR) for current service information. The LIRR also keeps customers informed about train service via the news media and e-mail service alerts from our 24/7 Public Information Office, which is located in the Railroad's transportation command center at Jamaica Station. Customers may sign up for free email service updates by linking here: http://mymtaalerts.com/LoginC.aspx
If we have reduced service during a storm, we may not be able to immediately return to full service. Equipment that was operating during the storm may require repairs and we may not have the right number of cars in the necessary locations. Because of these and other factors, we will upgrade the level of service judiciously.
While we will do our best to return the Railroad to a normal schedule as soon as is possible, please understand that delays and crowded conditions are possible.
In the event of a severe winter storm, it is likely that the subway system, which is largely enclosed in its network of tunnels, may be less affected by snow and/or ice. If for any reason trains are unable to operate into and out of Penn Station, you may find the following subway instructions from Penn Station to be helpful:
LIRR Storm Monitoring and Response
Based on information from a variety of sources - a contracted meteorological information service, LIRR personnel assigned to monitor actual conditions at key LIRR facilities, and National Weather Service reports direct from the weather station at Brookhaven National Laboratory - we classify the level of severity of a storm, and then operate accordingly. Depending on when the storm starts, we may add trains or change schedules to accommodate anticipated ridership.
The LIRR has developed a winter storm classification system that describes what customers can expect during different types of storms.
Level 1: Light snowfall, 4 inches or less
Little or no impact on operations/train service.
Level 2: Moderate snowfall, with accumulations of 5 to 9 inches
Operations could be hampered by more than a few inches of snowfall and blowing snow. Walking in parking lots, on stairways and station platforms may be difficult. Expect some delays; and allow for extra travel time.
Level 3: Heavy snowfall, with very difficult conditions
Train service to some branches, especially electric service, could be suspended, depending upon local conditions. Walking in parking lots, on stairways and station platforms is extremely difficult. We try to restore normal service as quickly as possible by pooling our diesel resources and allocating trains to provide the best service to our core branches. We also dedicate our snow-fighting equipment to our most heavily traveled lines. Train travel not encouraged at height of storm. Most (up to 80%) service is cancelled, with our focus on serving essential personnel such as police and fire department personnel.
Level 4: Ice Storms & Blizzards
Ice storm or severe icing conditions that result from sleet or freezing rain may result in track and/or equipment failures; they also make walking outside quite dangerous. A blizzard is a storm that contains large amounts of snow or blowing snow, with continuous winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than a quarter mile. In the event that either occurs, train movement may be curtailed, especially if there are frozen switches or the loss of third rail power for electric trains. Icing can have a greater impact on travel conditions than heavy snowfall and can develop very quickly.
Train travel is not encouraged at height of storm. Schedules and stops may change. Listen for schedule changes at key stations.
Other things to know
As soon as a storm begins, we contact other MTA agencies as well as state, city and county organizations to make plans for any necessary alternative service. We also survey a list of New York City employers to check for late openings or early closings. With this information, we adjust equipment and schedules for service from Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal and Hunterspoint Avenue.
In the event some train service is curtailed, a comprehensive alternative busing program has been developed with MTA Long Island Bus, MTA New York City Transit and other public and private carriers in order to direct resources where they are most needed.
In the event of a severe winter storm, it is likely that the subway system, which is largely enclosed in its network of tunnels, may be less affected by snow and/or ice.
If an Official State of Emergency is Declared Due to the Weather
Roads will be impassable and travel will be considered dangerous. Stay safe, and if at all possible, stay home.
We will only operate enough locomotive-hauled trains to help clear our tracks and to transport emergency service personnel until weather conditions improve.
We may have to suspend all service to some branches or portions of branches, depending on the conditions.
How you can prepare
The best way to be prepared is to be informed.
- Listen to the radio and television news: During any storm or emergency, this is the fastest way to find out how train service is affected. We will continuously provide information to the media.
- Visit our website for periodic service updates.
- Call our Travel Information Center at 718-217-5477. The Travel Information Center will be fully staffed, and there will also be a taped message describing our current service conditions. Please be aware that the volume of calls at the Travel Information Center will dramatically increase during a weather emergency, and you may experience delays getting through.
- Make sure you pick up a current LIRR timetable, as it will provide you with a frame of reference for train departure times at your station if severe weather requires us to run other than our normal schedule.
At Your Station:
- Listen closely for public address announcements if you are in Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal, or at a station on one of our branches.
- Depending on weather and service conditions, Long Island Rail Road employees will be on hand to answer questions about service and, if necessary, alternative means of travel.
Important Telephone Numbers
Long Island Rail Road:
MTA New York City Transit Subway & Bus
Hearing impaired: 1-718-596-8585 (TDD/TTY)
Long Island Bus
Hearing impaired: 1-516-228-4002 (TTY)
MTA Bus Company
HART (Huntington Area Rapid Transit)
Suffolk County Transit (Suffolk County Buses)