Sep. 30, 2011 at 2:13 PM ET
After lightning struck the Long Island Rail Road Thursday, scarce communication made for an abundance of flaring tempers. Twitter captured most of the action as it unfolded last night, starting with confused commuters stranded on trains for hours, then sweet relief as they finally arrived home.
Mother Nature played a cruel joke on one of the most vital organs of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority Thursday night with a lightning strike at a crucial transfer hub at the worst possible time — the beginning of rush hour. By disabling the signal service, the hit took out the entire system, except for one line that doesn't go through that particular junction. Thousands of commuters camped out at increasingly hot, stuffy stations, and on the packed trains, the situation escalated to scenes from"Lord of the Flies"; some claustrophobic riders jumped onto tracks, causing even more delays.
To say it was not a good night is an understatement, especially for those whose usual hour commutes turned into six-, seven- and eight-hour ordeals.
The morning rush Friday was nearly back to normal, but commuters still couldn't shake the experience that spawned hashtags like #LIRRageddon, #commutisaster and #trappedonatrain.
Every day about 300,000 people count on the Long Island Rail Road to take them to and from their homes and workplaces in the suburbs and Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan boroughs of New York.
Because communication from the MTA and LIRR trickled down so slowly and inconsistently, passengers turned to Twitter for help, and to connect with other passengers and spread what information they knew.
@mymonster, aka Adelphi University communications student Felicia Rodriguez, spent all night entertaining those following the LIRR fiasco, live-tweeting her temporary imprisonment on-board "to keep from going crazy." She was on a train at 7:30 when it stopped and didn't start again until midnight. She finally got home to Brooklyn at 1 a.m.
She killed all those hours by catching some ZZZZs (see pic above) and giving a play-by-play of the happenings on her train, with characters! They included, "this young girl who keeps calling her parents every 10 minutes," "these hipster kids," and "the obnoxious white girl who just bragged about smoking weed."
Rodriguez chronicled some tension building up between passengers, an Adele singalong and every single pinprick of hope every time there was a sliver of movement.
@lizkupcha, marketing consultant and mother Liz O'Rourke Kupcha, tweeted all night about her epic journey trying to get home to Amity Harbor. Here's one of her missives, sent about six hours after she was delayed at Penn Station: "I've had a better sense of closure being stuck out of town due to snowstorms & hurricanes. Too bad I can't say the same about the #LIRR."
Many Twitter users vented their frustration about the LIRR last night, shared their collective agony and helped others get home by organizing rides and letting others know when buses finally arrived.
The LIRR's official information Twitter account, @LIRRScoop, issued basic cancellation and delay info, but was not helpful to folks last night who needed constant updates and alternative solutions to getting home.
For them, Twitter was a lifeline.