Metro News Release

For immediate release: September 17, 2003

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Metro will close at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 18
Metro will sit out part of the Storm

Metro will suspend Metrobus and Metrorail service at 11 a.m. on Thursday, September 18, due to high winds expected to arrive with Hurricane Isabel. The decision not to accept customers after 11 a.m. was based on the most recent National Weather Service information available regarding the storm.

Concern for the safety of customers, employees, and pedestrians was the driving force behind the decision to suspend service during the height of the storm.

Metro has been in constant contact with and has been consulting with its local, state, and federal partners as well as with the National Weather Service throughout the day.

If the speed of the storm changes, Metro officials will revisit their decision on the time that the system will stop accepting customers.

"We will complete trips on rail and bus to get everyone where they need to be by 1 to 2 p.m., which is the time we believe that the 40 mph winds will reach our region," explained Metro CEO Richard White. "Once the winds are expected to reach a sustained level of 40 mph, it is not safe to be outdoors. We are concerned about the safety of our customers, employees, and pedestrians. Sustained winds of 40 mph or greater means wind gusts of more than 50 mph, and we do not want to risk having customers get blown in front of trains or onto the electrified tracks. Additionally, we do not want our bus customers who are waiting at stops to get blown in front of our buses or into other vehicular traffic. Nor do we want blowing projectiles to injure bus, rail, or MetroAccess customers. Suspending service is a precautionary safeguard. It is not safe to be outdoors.

"We want to be clear to our customers, and we think that a decision on a complete shutdown is much easier for them to understand, is less likely to result in someone being stranded within the system, and is a decision based on safety," Mr. White said.

The design standards for Metrorail trains and Metrobuses are such that they can withstand winds upwards of 80 mph without sustaining damage, so "this is not an issue of our equipment integrity or reliability. This is strictly a safety issue," he said.

Once winds fall below 40 mph, it would take several hours to restore rail service because track inspectors would need to walk the tracks to ensure they were clear from debris and did not sustain any damage from debris that may have landed on the tracks. Any damage would have to be repaired prior to giving the "all-clear" signal to resume service. Metro has already put aggressive plans into place in hopes of preventing the flooding expected to accompany the hurricane from disrupting Metrorail and Metrobus service. Maintenance workers and directors have been transporting sand bags to staging areas and monitoring drainage pumping stations and other sites. They have also put plans into place to establish a command center to oversee and direct emergency operations.

With the weather forecast for high winds and heavy rainfall, officials are doing everything they can to protect the regional rail and bus system from experiencing water damage. Metro’s trains operate along an electrified third rail which provides power to the train engines. If water reaches that power line, trains will not be able to operate.

For the most up-to-date information on Metro’s operations, customers should visit www.metroopensdoors.com, or call 202-637-7000, TTY: 202-638-3780.

News release issued on September 17, 2003.


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