NYC Subway System Hit Hard By Superstorm

Renee Montagne speaks with Deidre Parker, a spokeswoman for New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, for an update on the city's subways, buses, bridges and tunnels.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The National Weather Service is tracking where Superstorm Sandy goes next. Forecaster Jennifer McNatt is on the line.

Welcome to the program. Jennifer McNatt, can you hear us? And we'll try to get Jennifer McNatt of the National Weather Service back again.

Let's continue with a look at what's happening right now in New York City.

MONTAGNE: Let's get back to New York now. Its Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the MTA, is the largest municipal transportation network in North America. More than 6,000 subway cars on 24 lines cover more than 600 miles of track. Some tracks above ground and many very deep below. To hear how all those tracks and tunnels are faring through Sandy, we reached Deirdre Parker. She's a spokesperson for the MTA.

Good morning.

DEIRDRE PARKER: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now first, we've been reporting that some of the subway tunnels are flooded, which must be stunning. Describe that for us.

PARKER: Yes. Well, I don't think we've faced a natural disaster with such unprecedented damage as Hurricane Sandy. Last night, seven subway tubes under the East River took on water.

MONTAGNE: Well, right. I mean, how do you get the water out of subway tunnels that are in some cases even below the East River? I mean, where do you pump it?

PARKER: Well, yes, that is the challenge. And it's going to be a combination of waiting for it to subside and waiting for the tide to go out and also with our pumps to try to get the water out.

MONTAGNE: So a big job. How long will it take, logistically, to get those trains back up and running?

PARKER: First of all, we will begin our assessment activities probably around 7 o'clock this morning. And we will have to look at the damage. There's debris on the tracks, water damage. Things may have to be replaced.

Also, if we've had an influx of salt water, that may do extra damage to our electrical components. So any debris that's left on those components will have to be removed. Some of the components will have to be replaced. We really don't know the extent of that damage as yet. And our maintenance workers are going to have to walk, you know, every inch of track, Making sure that it is safe.

MONTAGNE: So what do you think you are talking - days or a week or more?

PARKER: I think it could be a matter of days or less. You know, it really depends on the amount of damage and what has to be replaced. So it's a big, big job to come back.

MONTAGNE: Deirdre Parker with New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Thanks very much for joining us.

INSKEEP: Amazing number there at the beginning, giving you an idea of the extent of the New York subway system, as well as the extent of the damage when she talked of seven different subway tubes that go underneath the East River, between Manhattan and Long Island - seven tubes that are flooded.

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