MTA 'hoping for the best but preparing for the worst' as major snowstorm takes aim at Tri-State area

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The MTA is getting ready for what could be the largest snowstorm to hit New York City in years.

The storm will move into the area Wednesday afternoon and bring with it heavy, wind-driven snow.

As much as 8 to 12 inches of snow could fall before the storm rolls out. Some areas north and west of the city could see more than a foot of snow.

The MTA is monitoring the track of the storm and has snow blowers, plows and other equipment at the ready to respond to the inclement weather, but commuters are encouraged to work from home if they can and avoid traveling unless necessary.

"We're hoping ridership tomorrow across the system is lower than normal. We're urging people to stay home if they have that option. Obviously not all workers do," MTA Chairman Pat Foye said.

According to the transit agency, employees will be out spreading salt and clearing platforms and stairs of snow and ice, keeping signals, switches, and third rail operating, and will remove any downed trees that may fall across tracks, and attend to any weather-related challenges during the storm.

Sarah Feinberg, head of the New York City Transit Authority, said subway service on outdoor tracks could stay closed beyond 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

"If we have to limit service in some sections of the system, particularly on our 220 miles of outdoor track, we're ready to do that so that we can avoid stranding trains and we will restore service as soon as possible," Feinberg said.

Some of that may be proactive.

"If this shifts a little bit and we end up with like 18 inches of snow right in those hours before we reopen I just want to make sure I'm leaving us room to be flexible and make sure that we're prioritizing," Feinberg said.

Underground portions of the system is expected to remain unaffected during the storm.

Buses will operate reduced service based on anticipated lower ridership.  All local buses will also be fitted with tire chains.

In the outer boroughs and beyond, prep work is also underway.

"Across the Metro-North network we have 635 track switch heaters ready to go, 220 portable snow blowers, 146 chain saws and 70 truck-mountable snow plows and salt spreaders," said Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi. "We are monitoring the forecasts carefully, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst."

The Long Island Rail Road also has a stockpile of equipment and materials ready to go, including nearly 1 million pounds of deicing material. The LIRR plans to operate on an enhanced weekend schedule for Thursday, Dec. 17.

An empty and tandem tractor tailor ban will be implemented on the MTa's bridges beginning at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

The MTA's goal will be to give commuters as much notice as possible about any changes in service.