Sandy Cripples NY Transit System; Thousands Of Flights Also Canceled

NEW YORK (CNN) — Sandy has weakened, yet its presence will be felt in the days and weeks to come as transportation systems assess its impact and try to resume normal schedules.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport is not expected to open Wednesday because of extensive damage, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference Tuesday morning.

Much of Tuesday’s air and rail service has been canceled, and millions of public transit commuters are without service. Here’s what to expect in many of the affected areas:

Transit upheaval

New York City’s massive public transit network was crippled overnight.

“The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph J. Lhoto said in an online statement.

Seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded in the course of the storm and two Long Island Rail Road tubes and two vehicular tunnels were inundated. One subway bridge, three subway yards and six bus facilities were also flooded, according to MTA’s website.

By noon Tuesday, five of the transportation authority’s seven bridges were reopened. Partial bus service — which will be fare-free and operated on a Sunday schedule — is expected to be restored by 5 p.m., with a full schedule expected on Wednesday. The MTA said it’s too early to estimate how long restoring systemwide service will take.

In New Jersey, all NJ Transit services remain suspended until further notice. Limited transit service was restored at noon on Tuesday in Maryland, according to the Maryland Transit Administration.

Some service in Philadelphia was restored at noon on Tuesday.

Southeastern Pennsylvania’s regional rail commuter lines present a bigger challenge, said SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams. Crews were out overnight and were walking the lines Tuesday assessing damage with the hopes of resuming commuter rail service Wednesday morning.

“But we already know it’s going to be a challenge. We already know there’s going to be disruptions and delays in the morning,” Williams said.

In Boston, most transit service resumed Tuesday, with some delays, according to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Amtrak extended Northeast Corridor cancellations through Tuesday. Bus routes connected to those trains were also canceled. Trains coming to and from Canada or to and from the South are still operating, but they are stopping short of the storm-affected states. Consult Amtrak’s website for more details.

Thousands of flights canceled

Close to 16,000 flight have been canceled as a result of the storm, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com.

More than 6,000 Tuesday flights were canceled, as of 8:50 a.m., FlightAware figures show. Philadelphia is leading the way with 1,085 cancellations, followed by the New York area airports with nearly 1,000 each.

On Tuesday morning, airlines had already canceled 635 flights for Wednesday. More cancellations are expected Tuesday and Wednesday as airport staffs assess damage.

Some airline operations resuming

New York’s LaGuardia Airport is expected to remain closed through Wednesday because of significant damage. Newark Liberty International Airport is also expected to be closed through Wednesday as engineers assess storm damage, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Anthony Hayes said.

If John F. Kennedy International Airport reopens Wednesday, which is unlikely, service will be limited, Hayes said. He strongly advised travelers to contact their airlines before heading to the airport.

Yet there are signs that some of the Northeast’s other airports are coming back to life.

On Tuesday morning, Philadelphia International Airport was expecting its first inbound cargo flight since the storm hit, and limited passenger operations are scheduled to begin Tuesday afternoon, said airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica. Airport parking lots and roads are drivable, she said.

Bradley International Airport, which serves the Hartford, Connecticut, area and western Massachusetts, was gearing up to resume operations Tuesday around noon, said airport spokesman John Wallace. The airport, which was spared the worst of the storm, never lost power and most employees were able to get to work this morning, he said.

Southwest Airlines (and subsidiary AirTran Airways) is planning to normal operations by midday Wednesday across most of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, with the exception of the New York City-area and Philadelphia airports, according to a statement. Delta Air Lines announced it will resume flying Tuesday at Boston Logan and the major Washington area airports, an airline spokesman said. United previously announced that it hoped to resume service at the major Washington area airports and Cleveland on Tuesday evening, weather permitting.

American Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines (including its AirTran subsidiary), and US Airways had previously announced cancellations Monday of all Tuesday operations to many Northeast locations, including the Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and New York City area airports.

Most carriers will allow affected passengers to change their itineraries without penalty. You can check advisories from the major airlines — American Airlines, Delta, United, US Airways, AirTran, JetBlue, and Southwest — on their websites.

Middle Eastern, European and Asian airlines also grounded flights in and out of the United States’ Eastern Seaboard as Sandy approached.

The good news is that the storm is happening during a slow travel season and airlines canceled many of the flights in advance, minimizing the number of stranded passengers, Farecompare.com Chief Executive Rick Seaney said Monday.

“Barring significant airport damage, flight patterns should be back to normal by the end of the weekend,” Seaney said.

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