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New York City Subways Shut Down; Travel Ban In Effect On Local, State Roads

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As a potentially historic blizzard swept through the Tri-State Area on Monday night, the entire New York City subway system and other Metropolitan Transportation Authority systems have shut down.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier that the subway system and the rest of the MTA and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey system would shut down, effective at at 11 p.m.

In addition, local, state and city roads have been shut down to all but emergency vehicles.

Estimates late Monday afternoon indicated that wind speeds could gust up to 70 mph, and thus, the state decided to call the suspension.

Earlier, Cuomo had said the subway would slow down service and continue limited service after 11 p.m., but he later said the system would have to shut down altogether.

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"Getting the subways and the railroad cars in a safe position is key, so that when the weather does leave, we're in a position for the system to start back up," Cuomo said.

The shutdown of the system began rolling into effect at around 5 p.m., and was completed by 11 p.m.

"A lot of people think of the subways as being completely underground. In fact, a huge proportion of it, probably about 40 percent, of the subway is above ground and is prone to getting icing and snow," MTA Spokesman Aaron Donovan told WCBS 880.

"We're going to be spending the whole night monitoring the conditions throughout our service area, monitoring the area. It really depends on what we see the conditions are but we can't guarantee there will be service tomorrow morning," he added.

Travel also has been be restricted on all roads – whether interstate, state, county, city or town – in 13 counties. Those counties include the five boroughs of New York City -- each of which comprises a county -- as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, and Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester counties.

Only emergency vehicles are allowed on the roads, and those caught not complying will face penalties, he said.

"This is a serious situation," Cuomo said. "If you violate this state order, it's a possible misdemeanor, with fines up to $300, and that will go into effect at 11 o'clock also," Cuomo said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier ordered a ban for non-emergency travel on all New York City streets, which also began at 11 p.m. Police Chief of Department James O'Neill said those who violate the ban in the city could get a ticket, or in the worst-case scenario, be arrested.

"Not what we want to do. We want to be helping people. But we need people to be staying off the roads tonight," O'Neill said.

Airports were also shut down overnight. Port Authority executive director Pat Foye said virtually all flights from LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport were to be canceled beginning Monday night.

Non-essential New York state employees in the 13 affected counties were to stay home from work on Tuesday, Cuomo's office said. State offices in those counties will all be closed Tuesday.

A blizzard warning is in effect for the metropolitan area through midnight Wednesday morning. CBS2's Lonnie Quinn expects snow to fall at a rate of 2 to 4 inches an hour in a period that is expected to begin reaching its worst early Tuesday morning, with winds gusting 40 to 60 mph.

The storm could bury some communities in 4 or more feet of snow. Coastal flooding and erosion is also a major threat.

One earlier forecasting model anticipated a grand total of 34.4 inches of snow falling in New York City. More modest models anticipate 17.1 inches. Most models continue to show New York City in the 12- to 24-inch range.

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