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Irene halts Northeast transit as D.C. Metro prepares to run normal service

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Michael Watson Contributor

The New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority is suspending all its services in preparation for Hurricane Irene. But 200 miles to the south, the Washington, D.C. public transit system will operate its normal weekend service as the giant storm passes near the U.S. capital region.

Irene is forecast to hit the Eastern Seaboard with very strong winds, rain and storm surge. The New York MTA said it is will suspend all of its services starting 8 hours before the estimated arrival of tropical storm-force winds. New York City subway trains will stop running at noon Saturday.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority slowed its rush-hour trains to 15 miles per hour after Tuesday’s magnitude 5.8 earthquake. But on Sunday trains will be keeping a typical weekend schedule, opening at 7:00 a.m.

Metro had expected to open rail service at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday to accommodate the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. That ceremony has been postponed.

According to a press release, Metro is placing more than 2,000 sandbags around flood-prone rail station escalators throughout the system. The agency is also providing chainsaws to maintenance supervisors and other employees in system-owned vehicles, so they can respond to reports of downed trees.

Amtrak has canceled most train services south of Washington, D.C. for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday. As of Friday afternoon, trains along the Northeast Corridor — north of Washington — have not yet been affected.

Other mass transit authorities in the northeast are also changing service schedules because of Hurricane Irene. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, which operates rail and bus service in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, has suspended all services on Sunday from 12:30 a.m. until noon. New Jersey Transit regional trains will shut down Saturday at noon.