It doesn’t happen often but the Long Island Rail Road is apologizing to commuters for Monday’s train service disruptions.
In a letter posted on its website late Tuesday afternoon, LIRR officials wrote the following:
The Long Island Rail Road apologizes to our customers who experienced significant delays and service disruptions yesterday and this morning as a result of damage sustained to our signaling system from multiple lightning strikes on the Main Line and the Babylon/Montauk branches.
At approximately 2:30 PM yesterday, a series of intense storms suddenly swept through Long Island carrying severe lightning and, at times, hail. While we closely monitor the weather and had additional staffing in place, a direct lightning strike to the LIRR’s Babylon tower, as well as many others along the Main Line between New Hyde Park and Carle Place, caused significant damage to the signal systems in these areas. In Babylon Tower both the main and back up computer systems as well as communication links used to remotely control signals and switches were damaged. Their protective circuits could not withstand the intense surge from the lightning.
Without a fully functioning signal system to safely operate trains, service was temporarily suspended on the Babylon/Montauk branches and the branches on the Main Line – Ronkonkoma, Huntington/Port Jefferson, Oyster Bay and Hempstead – prior to the start of the PM Rush. While the LIRR made every effort to keep customers informed during yesterday’s crisis – including updates of MTA.info – the extent of the signal damage made it difficult to predict with certainty when service could be safely restored.
Many switches along the Main Line and at Babylon had to be manually set – by blocking and spiking the switch in place – for limited, designated routes. This resulted in delays of up to two hours during the PM rush with numerous trains being canceled.
LIRR crews work throughout the day, night and overnight to implement interim repairs to the signal system at Babylon Tower.
While interim repairs were in place prior to the morning rush, additional latent damage from the storm occurred at the start of the morning rush hour when the LIRR’s power system to the Babylon Tower failed – disabling the signal system again for about 45 minutes.
Based on the interim fixes made, we anticipate normal rush hour service for this evening’s PM rush. LIRR crews are continuing to work to make full permanent repairs to the damage caused by yesterday’s storm.
Monday commuters turned to social networking sites to shout out complaints about train delays and issues while the LIRR was reporting on-time service. At the time of the apology Babylon service was being reported as “good.”