On morning after, talk of rough commute

LIRR passengers wait for elevators to subway lines

LIRR passengers wait for elevators to subway lines after a lightning strike disrupted westbound service from Jamaica to Penn Station on the LIRR on Sept. 29, 2011. (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

Joelle Webb went for drinks, knowing she wanted to avoid the masses of stranded riders.

Hilary Stipelman took the E train from Manhattan to Jamaica, then took the AirTrain to Kennedy Airport, where her husband, driving home from New Jersey, picked her up for the ride home.

On Friday morning, commuters recounted horror stories of their commute home Thursday night, when a lightning strike in Jamaica caused turmoil for passengers on the largest commuter railroad in the United States. Service was knocked out twice -- and some passengers said it took as long as five hours to get home.

Standing on the platform in Huntington Friday, Robbyn Sanchez, 37, of Huntington, said she was stuck in Penn Station for two hours and got home at midnight.

She arrived at the station early Friday, expecting delays, and said she was relieved to find her train on time.

"I heard people screaming and yelling about what happened [Thursday night]," she said. "But, how can you help lightning?"

Larry Brignati of Rockville Centre said he waited at Penn Station for three hours -- then took a car service home.

John Ferro, also of Rockville Centre, said he took the E train to Jamaica, then caught a bus.

Joelle Webb of Hempstead said she heard about the trouble caused by the lightning strike and made the best of a worse-case scenario: She went for drinks and sat it out.

"I took the subway straight to Jamaica," she said. "I didn't even go to Penn Station once I heard there was a problem."

Annette Baptiste, 52, of Baldwin, said she caught a train to Great Neck, where her and several co-workers got rides home from her daughter. But, Baptiste said, her mother wasn't so lucky, catching the 7 p.m. train from Penn to Baldwin -- and arriving home at 11:15 p.m.

"That poor lady," Baptiste said. "She stood all the way . . . I didn't even want to call her this morning. I let her sleep, the poor woman."

But, while many complained about the series of unfortunate events, Mark Polcer, 49, of Greenlawn, said commuters need to keep it in perspective.

"It still beats driving."

With John Valenti, Maria Alvarez and Hugo Kugiya

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