Usually it is a train malfunction or problem with a track that causes Metro delays. But Tuesday offered commuters something different: a 5.8-magnitude earthquake.
In the hour after an earthquake rocked the D.C. region, many left their jobs and headed home, starting the evening rush hour early at 2:30 p.m.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said crews inspected the rail system’s 106 miles of track, tunnels, bridges and aerial structures, and the system reopened with regular service at 5 a.m
Stessel said there were no reported customer injuries. A station manager at Naylor Road injured his ankle in the earthquake.
At mid-afternoon Tuesday, passengers crowded station platforms at various stations as Metro Transit Police regulated the number of people who could enter. Thirty-minute commutes turned into hour-long treks by rail as trains traveled at 15 miles per hour as crews conducted the inspections. Customers packed onto trains, trying to get home.
“It was like a cattle car,” said Andrew Bossi, 28 of Farragut West and Foggy Bottom stations as he rode on the Orange Line. His commute from Dunn Loring to his home in Logan Circle took two hours Tuesday afternoon. Normally, it takes 50 minutes.
“By and large people were pretty chatty,” he wrote in an e-mail. He couldn’t talk by phone in the mid-afternoon because towers were down and service was spotty. “I didn't see anyone in bad spirits.”
Monica Johnson, 31, of Alexandria, wrote in an e-mail that her commute from L'Enfant Plaza to her home near the Crystal City Metro took an hour and a half, compared to a normal 10 to 15 minutes.
“People waiting for trains on the platform at L'Enfant were a little edgy and frustrated,” she wrote. “Many were irritable and pushing and shoving. A few were making derogatory comments and swearing at other people and Metro workers.”
Many riders said they thought Metro handled the situation as well as possible. One Twitter follower joked it was handled better than a snowstorm.
At the L’Enfant Plaza station, customers applauded as trains arrived just before 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
A Los Angeles native, Kristen Becker, 28, of Silver Spring, said she was working at a trade school near the White House and realized it was an earthquake – although at first she thought the shaking was an explosion.
At 3 p.m., she left her office and started to head home on the Red Line towards Glenmont. At Farragut North, she said, the station and train were “solid people up and down the platform.”
Despite the crowds, she said, “No one seemed panicked.” She waited 10 minutes
fro for a train.
The station manager at Farragut North gave waiting passengers updates on where the train was and how long they were going to be waiting using the public announcement system, Becker said.
Becker’s normal 30-minute commute turned into an hour.
Still, she gave Metro kudos on how they handled the situation.
“I thought they handled it really well,” she said. “Our train driver would warn us that we have to go slowly. He was good at reminding people on the platform to step back, let people off the train. He said, ‘I promise you I’m not going to leave you. Just let people get off.’”
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