New York subway to shut down as Sandy nears

A satellite image of Hurricane Sandy from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) taken on Friday (CNN)

A satellite image of Hurricane Sandy from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) taken on Friday (CNN)

New York (CNN) – The subway in the city that never sleeps will shut down Sunday night as officials brace for the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will suspend subway service at 7 p.m., Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The last commuter railroad trains will also leave at that time. And bus service will stop at 9 p.m., he said.

“The storm is coming … and now it is time to take action,” Cuomo told reporters. “A situation like this, you don’t want to be overly panicked and overly prepared, but you want to be prudent and you want to do what is necessary.”

The storm is expected to cause massive flooding and widespread power outages when it hits the East Coast, in full, late Sunday and into next week. But before that happens, transportation companies and government officials are allowing — and, in some cases, urging — people to plan for the worst.

A number of airlines, for example, are allowing customers to change their flight plans without paying any fees due to Sandy.

Delta will let those ticketed to fly between Sunday and Wednesday, in and out of airports in 15 states and the District of Columbia, to reschedule by November 4. United’s offer applies to travel to-and-from 29 airports, for the same dates.

Other airlines, such as American, are offering a similar process, with slight variations. And at least in U.S. Airways’ case, the weather is already keeping airlines busy: The airline apologized to customers on its Twitter feed for long waits to get through to agents due to a high call volume tied to Sandy.

Amtrak announced Saturday that it will cancel some of its train runs on Sunday to and from Richmond and Newport News, Virginia; Chicago and Washington; Miami and New York; and Washington and New York. In addition, a train scheduled to run Monday between Washington and Chicago will also remain in the station.

“Passengers are encouraged to travel on earlier available trains on Sunday,” Amtrak said in a news release. “Additional cancellations might be necessary in the coming days as this major storm moves north.”

Meanwhile, New Jersey is taking steps to shut down NJ Transit bus, rail and Access Link service on Monday — much as it did last year for 36 hours due to Hurricane Irene.

“By beginning this important process, NJ Transit will be better able to support the state’s response to Hurricane Sandy by freeing up buses or other resources that may be needed for hurricane relief,” Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson said in a press release.

For all the potential headaches at airports, train stations and bus terminals, the type of transportation affected first and most directly by Sandy may be boating. All along the East Coast, meteorologists and officials have warned people to steer clear of the seas because of potentially perilous high winds and large waves tied to the storm.

Pam and Bob Haigh, a Rhode Island couple, were surprised — given how late it is in the hurricane season — that Sandy has delayed their plans to sail from Maryland to the Florida Keys.

But they know that this isn’t the first time that Mother Nature has affected travel plans — nor will it be the last.

“We’ve got a surprise, so we’ll just ride it out,” Pam Haigh said. “There’s not much else we can do.”