The fire is speculated to have been caused by heavy rains that made ground cables around the signal tower short out.
Ten out of 11 of railroad branches – with the exception of Port Washington trains - were suspended for three hours starting at 10:45 a.m.
On a normal day, 100,000 LIRR customers would have left Manhattan on 120 trains during the evening rush hour. Only 60 percent of services on LIRR's regular 120 trains departing Manhattan between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. were up on Monday and Tuesday night.
Jennifer Johns, a Rocky Point resident, had chosen to take her three daughters to the Museum of Natural History on Monday. After finding out from her husband, an LIRR employee, about massive delays on the LIRR line, “we just made use of the time and looked at the dinosaurs some more,” she said.
Parminder Parmar, a Jersey City resident who had been planning to visit her parents in New Hyde Park was annoyed that the delays had cost her an hour. Her eastbound train simply stopped at Jamaica instead of taking her to her final destination.
The LIRR had been compensating passengers throughout the day, but emotions ran high for some.
“People were really angry on the train because they weren’t really told what was happening,” Parmar observed.
Train commuters weren’t the only ones affected. Roads around Jamaica Station - from Sutphin Boulevard to Van Wyck Expressway and from Archer Avenue to Jamaica Avenue - were closed off to cars during rush hour, said a policeman.
Salvatore Arena, an LIRR spokesman, said that the area had been cordoned off to allow buses into the area to pick up stranded commuters in case the situation worsened.
None of the 20 buses on standby outside Jamaica Station were used in the end. The road closures caused traffic congestion build up in the area during peak hour traffic.
The LIRR had taken these precautions because it had experienced an overflow of commuters in Jamaica the last time trains were down. “This has happened before in history. It’s part of the DNA of the system,” Arena said.
The LIRR issued an announcement late Monday night warning computers to expect “significant schedule changes and delays” during Tuesday’s morning and evening rush hours.