Subway Prepping for Next Big Storm

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After recovering from extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy, the MTA is gearing up for the next giant weather event

By Karen Matthews

Removable panels and inflatable plugs are among the ideas New York City's transit officials are considering to stop the next big storm from flooding the subway system the way Superstorm Sandy did, officials said Thursday.

Interim Executive Director Thomas Prendergast said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is investigating whether removable panels could be placed over ventilation grates and stairwells. The panels would be sealed shut with foam and should work better than the plywood and sandbags the agency uses now, Prendergast said.

"We don't have to wait for space age solutions or rocket science solutions," he said.

Prendergast said the MTA is also exploring other technologies such as an inflatable plug big enough to seal off a subway tunnel.

Eight of the MTA's underwater tunnels flooded during the storm last October. Most subway lines were out for only a few days but parts of the system have taken much longer to repair.

Prendergast said A train service to the Rockaways will resume May 30 for the first time since the storm.

The MTA is still assessing the closed South Ferry station at the southern tip of Manhattan, where Thursday's briefing was held in a crew room that flooded during the storm.

Lower Manhattan, home to the financial industry, City Hall and tens of thousands of residents, was where the subway system took its hardest hit from Sandy other than in the Rockaways.

Prendergast said there are 540 places in lower Manhattan where water can get into the system, including stairways, ventilation grates and emergency exits.

He said the MTA hopes to have some mechanism in place to plug them up by the end of the 2013 hurricane season or at least by the beginning of the 2014 season.

Should a hurricane come in the meantime, he said, "we would do what we did last time, which is sandbags and plywood."

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