Yesterday afternoon, lightning hit Long Island Rail Road operations near Jamaica, causing a signal problem that then cascaded into service suspensions across LIRR as well as a temporary closure of Penn Station due to crowding. Service eventually came back later in the evening... only for it to be suspended again. However, today, the MTA believes that the LIRR morning commute—after crews worked all night to restore service— will "operate near-normal morning rush hour service... However, customers are advised that there will be some canceled trains and some delays."
Last night's chaos was no joke: Newsday reports, "Though hourly eastbound service was restored by midnight to Babylon, Huntington, Long Beach and Ronkonkoma, and resumed from Atlantic Terminal to Far Rockaway and Hempstead, at the peak of the service disruption seven trains filled with commuters were stuck in and around Jamaica station. On some stationary trains, commuters took matters into their own hands -- abandoning those trains, jumping onto the tracks and walking along them despite the danger. LIRR officials turned off the current to the third rail to avoid electrocutions. MTA police searched the tracks near Jamaica after receiving reports of the self-evacuations." But some passengers weren't so lucky!
Tom Lapinski, 49, of Garden City, a currency broker, got on a train at 7:05 p.m. and was still on that train about 300 yards west of Jamaica at 11:30 p.m. Lapinski was angry that his calls from the train to 311, a nonemergency city help line, were transferred to the Long Island Rail Road and that got him nowhere.
"It just rang and rang and rang, with no pickup. I had to hang up," he said.
Ventilation was almost nonexistent on the train, Lapinski said. In an interview from the train, he said, "There's no air. We opened some doors a little to get air. . . . They threatened us with arrest if we tried to leave the train." Then he quipped, "They should bring back the bar car." He arrived at Garden City at 12:05 a.m.
A Long Island Rail Road Community Council member who was stuck on a train thought the LIRR did a pretty good job, considering, "I'm beginning to think that Mother Nature has it out for commuters."