Flooded NYC Subways May Be Out Of Commission For Weeks, Lawmakers Warn

Images of flooded NYC subways began to emerge on social media last night, but the extent of the flooding damage only became truly apparent this morning as a waterlogged New York City woke to a city submerged in many of its key areas, including subway stations.

The flooded NYC subways are, in ways, to be expected given the low-lying location of the five boroughs and the precarious pumping system in place to keep subway tunnels operational and unaffected by regular weather patterns.

But Sandy and the subsequent badly flooded NYC subways exposed the true vulnerability of Manhattan’s mass transit system, and it looks like New Yorkers will be stuck at home for several days while the MTA works on getting the trains up and running again in her wake.

TIME took an in-depth look at the flooded NYC subways and the frighteningly vague prognosis for service restoration. The mag spoke with MTA spokesman Charles Seaton, who confirmed that the every piece of equipment in the city’s subway system “has to be disassembled, cleaned and dried” of the corrosive salt water from the flooding before service can be restored.

To give you an idea of why Sandy flooded NYC subways so badly, Seaton explains:

“We have three pump trains, 300 pump rooms and dozens of portable pumps around the system … Even on a day when there’s no rain, we pump out 13 million gallons of water.”

Flooded NYC subways aren’t the only problem facing New Yorkers and New Jersey residents who work in Manhattan, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie confirmed that PATH trains into the city are facing the same unprecedented damage and corrosion. Christie explained:

“I would not look for the PATH system to be operating anytime in the near future … You have salt water in that system. You’re going to have third rail problems. You’re going to have signal problems.”

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flooded PATH hoboken

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was circumspect in commenting on the NYC subway flooding and restoration efforts, saying:

“The work of getting our mass transit grid and our power grid restored, however, is going to take more time and a lot of patience … Our administration will move heaven and earth to help them.”

Reportedly, the flooded NYC subways face another challenge due to the age of the system and the fact that many vendors who made parts for the subways have been out of business for decades.