Camilla Akbari boarded a 7:43 p.m. New Jersey Transit train on Wednesday night from New York Penn Station hoping to get to her mom’s place in Princeton, New Jersey. It’s a trip that generally takes about an hour.
This ride, though, took about 14.
Amid torrential downpours and flooding, the 24-year-old New York University Law School student found herself stuck overnight on-board the train without electricity, ventilation, food or water. The toilets were unusable. Through the night she says she heard a stream of false promises that help was on the way.
“We were literally and figuratively in the dark for hours,” she told CNN.
Akbari was one of thousands of people stranded in the New York metro area’s public transit systems on Wednesday night due to flash floods from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. No mode of transportation was spared. Streets, subways, above-ground trains and airports were all flooded by the storm.
New York declared a state of emergency early Thursday morning, the first-ever flash flood emergency issued for the city. And the city implemented a travel ban until 5 a.m. ET. Those declarations came too late for many commuters, though, who became stranded at travel hubs far from home.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority outlined the issues early Thursday: The subway system flooded in 46 locations, about 65 buses were blocked or stuck and two Metro North Line trains were stranded. In addition, all New Jersey Transit rail service, except for the Atlantic City Rail Line, were suspended due to the flooding.
The New York City Fire Department had to rescue hundreds of people from subway stations, spokesman Frank Dwyer said. The head of the MTA said roughly 15 to 20 subway trains were stranded.
“The most important thing is we did get people out safely,” MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told CNN on Thursday that New York City was paralyzed by the unprecedented storm.
“We literally through the night had transit workers going through the tracks to make sure that they were safe,” she said. “There was a lot of flooding. No lives were lost there.”