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Heavy rain and other flood events: service guide

Learn more about what to expect on our subways, buses, railroads, and bridges and tunnels during extreme weather events, such as flash flooding and coastal storms.

On a typical day, MTA crews pump 14 million gallons of water from the subway system. But occasionally, there are extreme and atypical weather events, such as severe storms or periods of intense rainfall that cause flash flooding. These can overwhelm pumping infrastructure and impact your ride with us.

When severe weather is in the forecast, we work with city and state partners to monitor weather and keep our riders, employees, and equipment safe. Take a look at the information below to learn about how flooding can affect subways, buses, railroads, and bridges and tunnels; how we respond during these events; and how we help you stay safe and informed. 

Preparing to travel during heavy rain or flood events

  • Don’t run, especially on wet surfaces. 
  • Do not enter flooded stations. 
  • Use handrails in stations, on trains, and on buses.  
  • Be careful boarding and exiting trains. Don’t move between train cars. 
  • Follow instructions from MTA employees.
  • Listen for station announcements and check digital signs in stations for updates. 
  • Check the weather and transit service status before you travel. If the weather is severe enough, it might be safer to not travel if you can avoid it. 

We want you to know about service changes as far in advance as possible. Find the latest service status on our homepage, and in the MYmta or TrainTime apps.

If you need to report flooding or other unsafe conditions, you can text New York City Transit and Metro-North on WhatsApp. You can also contact us via iMessage from an iOS device to report issues on the subway or bus.

You can also follow us on Twitter at @MTA, @NYCTSubway, @NYCTBus, @MetroNorth, and @LIRR

An MTA bus during a rainstorm.
An MTA shuttle train runs during a storm.

Types of flooding

Flooding can have many different causes. The subway sometimes experiences minor flooding from groundwater. Water main breaks can drench underground stations. And some service disruptions are caused by flooding that is less frequent but is more severe, like storm surges and flash flooding. We take different approaches for these different types of flooding. 

Flash flooding

Flash flooding happens when heavy rain falls at a rate that overwhelms drains in a particular area. In a city, drainage is dependent on the city's sewers; if water cannot properly drain, it will flood the streets — and eventually the subway system. 

Flash floods typically occur during fast‐moving rainstorms, which are harder to predict in terms of timing and location of impact. The unpredictable nature of flash flooding makes it more difficult to prepare and mobilize. Protective measures need to be designed to function while we’re still running service.  

While fresh water is generally not as harmful to our infrastructure as saltwater, it can still create unsafe conditions for our customers and employees or cause damage to certain types of equipment. 

Storm surge

Coastal flooding is caused by storm surge — when strong winds force large volumes of water up over land, typically during major coastal storms like Sandy. As its name suggests, specific coastal locations are susceptible to coastal flooding from storm surge. This kind of flooding can be particularly devastating because of the massive volume of salt water, which can cause severe corrosion of our infrastructure and equipment.  

Because this flooding is typically caused by slow‐moving storms, we generally have several days to prepare. We may take proactive action to suspend service and deploy targeted protection that seals vulnerable parts of the transportation system to protect it against salt water. 

How we prepare for heavy rain and other flood events

On the subways, we deploy crews to flood-prone locations to monitor the situation and respond to any flooding that occurs. Crews will inspect track drains and check and stage track pumps and storm boxes. We also mobilize crews to assist in cleaning debris from tracks and stage emergency response equipment. 

For buses, crews monitor flood-prone routes and have detours prepared. Extra personnel may be put on standby in the event of service disruptions or subway shutdowns. 

When it comes to LIRR and Metro-North, we monitor weather conditions and may deploy maintenance personnel to troubleshoot any issues with signals, tracks, or sources of power. These crews may have chainsaws for clearing downed trees, or pumps available for flooded areas.   

Electronic weather sensors are in place on bridges so that we can monitor weather and roadway conditions. Crews monitor areas that have historically been prone to flooding and prepare to clear conditions if necessary.

Subway workers stand near a broken tree branch that is extending onto a subway track. A subway car is stuck behind the branch.
Railroad workers stand near a section of train track that was washed out in the aftermath of a severe storm.
Severe storms can lead to downed trees and track washouts, which can impact service.

Potential service changes

Extreme weather can disrupt service on the MTA’s subways, buses, and commuter railroads. If this happens, we communicate changes through announcements, station and bus screens, our website and apps, and Twitter. 

In extreme and rare cases, such as hurricanes, we may take proactive action and partially or fully suspend service. In those cases, we will also advise customers to avoid traveling until it is safe to do so. 

Subway 

  • Subways may run at slower speeds 
  • Some stations may be skipped if there are hazardous conditions, such as flooding or downed trees 
  • Service may be suspended or rerouted if tracks are not safe for service 

Bus 

  • Bus operators may need to make detours if flooding impacts a bus route 
  • Service on some bus routes may be suspended if flooding in an area makes travel unsafe  

Commuter rail 

  • Trains may run at slower speeds 
  • Service along a branch or line may be suspended if water, downed trees, or other debris interferes with tracks 
  • Trains may experience delays as crews work to clear tracks  

Bridges and tunnels 

  • Temporary bans on tandem trailers and empty tractor trailers on bridges 
  • Closing pedestrian pathways on bridges 
  • Asking motorists to refrain from traveling for the duration of a storm or flooding event