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RUSH HOUR UPDATE: LIRR Expects Normal Evening Service; 75% of Riders Stayed Home

Commuters from Hicksville and Bethpage were affected by morning disruptions Wednesday.

The Long Island Rail Road says its afternoon rush-hour service will be near normal Wednesday after a giant portion of its riders simply stayed home.

The LIRR estimates that about 75 percent of its daily riders sat out the storm rather than face the morning commute with its threatened service disruptions. In fact, 23 westbound trains were cancelled during Wednesday's morning rush hour, affecting Plainview area travelers from Hicksville and Bethpage.

This afternoon, the LIRR reported delays of just 10 minutes on its Ronkonkoma branch in either direction. That line runs through Bethpage and Hicksville.

Compared with the Christmas weekend storm, where the entire system was shut down for a period, this snow storm was easy, said Salvatore Arena, LIRR's  spokesman.

"It was a significant storm, but not as tough as the one in December," Arena said. "It did not have blizzard conditions throughout and it was not as windy. I think the railroad was well prepared for the storm."

The railroad expects to have near-normal service this afternoon on its electrically powered lines for its rush hour commute home. Tracks are being cleared and service is gradually returning to normal on some lines. Delays are still possible. 

The fact that many riders stayed home "is very helpful, and very much appreciated," Arena said. "Nonetheless, the snow was problematic.... There were fewer trains, but they were running, by and large."

The LIRR issued a warning Tuesday night of possible service disruptions because of Wednesday's winter storm.

The LIRR, which was crippled by the Christmas weekend blizzard, said it may have to suspend train service when snow accumulations reach between 10 and 13 inches. The suspensions allow for tracks and the third rail to be cleared by special equipment and to avoid stranding trains between stations.

During the in December, frozen switches forced widespread delays on the railroad's 11 branches. Most of the LIRR was shut down on the second day of the storm.

The railroad urged passengers who are not required to travel on Wednesday morning to stay home. Service updates are available on the MTA's web site: http://www.mta.info/

The phone for the LIRR's Travel Information Center is 718-217-5477.

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