MTA: We Can't Tell What the Flood Damage to Subway Tunnels Is Yet

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The entrance to the downtown 1 train at Broadway and 79th Street (photo by Kate Hinds)

(With reporting from Alex Goldmark and Andrea Bernstein) Earlier Monday, the head of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that salt water from the East River would put the city's subway system “in jeopardy.”

So when word went out earlier Monday night -- from the agency's official Twitter feed -- that the doomsday scenario of salt water flooding the system could be coming to pass, New Yorkers feared the worst.

The tweet: "Up to four feet of seawater is entering subway tunnels under the East River."

But now the authority says that was an error -- and it can't ascertain the condition of the tunnels right now. From a tweet just before 9:30pm: "Correction: Condition of under river tunnels unknown. Up to four feet of water was observed at a Lower Manhattan station."

Salt water could corrode the subway's signal system. And even after water is pumped out of a flooded station, salt deposits remain behind. The MTA says these damaged signal systems can't always be cleaned in the field and sometimes they must be replaced outright.

The subway system was shut down Sunday at 7pm. The mayor said earlier Monday that it would not be up and running by Tuesday morning, which gives the authority more time to determine the condition of the system.

The MTA says the pumps for clearing water from the stations are running on generators, not dependent on Con Ed -- one piece of luck for the agency, given the power outages in the area.