MANHATTAN — The Long Island Rail Road was crippled Thursday after lightning decimated the signal system in Jamaica, wreaking havoc on the afternoon commute and stranding passengers throughout the system for hours.
Just before 9:30 p.m., the MTA shut down the entire railroad with the exception of the Port Washington branch while it furiously worked to fix the damage at Jamaica. The agency said that the situation "will likely affect the morning rush hour service."
"Chaos in Jamaica! LIRR was struck by lightning? So now I'm using my pocketcomputer to give directions to a flagged down car service," tweeted @joshc.
And @Slay_Barakzai wrote: "People on this train are about to go Postal. The passengers are chanting "f--k u, f--k u, f--k u" to the conductor."
The chaos left others stuck in Penn Station.
"4 hours later and I'm still trapped in Penn. F--k you #LIRR," tweeted @Unsung_Linguist.
But @bryanffox thought things could be worse: "I suppose it could be worse-I'm stuck in Penn, the poor souls on trains stuck between stations are really screwed," he tweeted.
Trains stopped running just before 5 p.m. on all lines from Penn Station and the Atlantic Avenue terminal except for the Port Washington line, which does not pass through Jamaica.
According to the MTA's website, the delays were due to lightning strikes at Jamaica Station.
"LIRR employees are manually resetting switches," an alert on the site said. "Expect significant delays."
A later advisory said: "The LIRR's signal system, which controls the operation of trains into and out of Jamaica, is not functioning."
Customers were advised to seek alternate means of transportation while the repairs were made.
New York City Transit was cross-honoring fares at Penn Station, Atlantic Avenue, Parsons Blvd-Archer Avenue and Sutphin Blvd-Archer Avenue.
But if customers did not have access to alternate means of transportation, they would have to wait until service was restored, the MTA said.
Service was initially restored between Atlantic Avenue and Jamaica just before 6:30 p.m., according to the agency's website.
And about 20 minutes later, hourly service resumed on the Babylon, Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma lines.
But the situation took a turn for the worse towards the end of the evening rush.
An MTA spokesman said that as of late Thursday night, there did not appear to be any trains stuck in between stations.
However, there were still trains that had been which were in the process of being unloaded.
It was not clear how many hours the stranded passengers spent on the trains.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, the MTA and FDNY said.