A train riders stuck on frozen third rail

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Hundreds of commuters and airline passengers were forced to have a sleepover on the A train in the early morning Monday after they were left stranded for seven hours in Howard Beach by the monstrous blizzard that swept through the city.

None of the 400 passengers suffered injury or health problems despite having no heat in their cars, a spokeswoman for the MTA said.

The snow, coupled with gusty winds, froze the third rail of the elevated track between the Howard Beach and Rockaway Boulevard stops and stopped the Manhattan-bound train cold shortly before 1 a.m., according to the spokeswoman.

“The train is completely dead,” the conductor told the passengers, many of whom were heading home from John. F. Kennedy International Airport, where all flights were canceled.

Emergency lights inside the cars were turned on while crews tried to help the straphangers. Some of the lucky ones were stuck in cars that were still in the Howard Beach station, the spokeswoman said.

“Customers were able to get off and go where they had to go and some were able to use the employee bathroom,” she said.

For those who could not leave from the station, there were no additional comforts. The diesel-powered tow train did not arrive until 7:52 a.m. because of problems with the tracks, according to the spokeswoman.

The subway was finally taken to the Rockaway Boulevard station a short time later and all passengers were able to go home, the spokeswoman said.

The A train incident was one of several mass transit adventures caused by the storm that dropped as much as 16 inches of snow in some parts of Queens.

Along with cancellations at both JFK and LaGuardia, the AirTrain and Long Island Railroad suspended service Sunday night and Monday morning.

Some subways were still running but many lines, including the 7, were experiencing delays due to weather. Buses were also running, but many got stuck in the heavy snow, the spokeswoman said.

“The roads are a misery and we had numerous buses that had problems overnight, flipped and skidded,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 10:28 am, October 12, 2011
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