NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An afternoon water main break suspended inbound international flights, and exacerbated an already chaotic situation at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday.

On top of it, the power had to be turned off — cutting lights and heat to same part of the airport affected by the main break late in the afternoon.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, passenger patience wore increasingly thin as long delays and compounding cancellations continued several days after a major winter storm battered the Tri-State Area.

Making matters worse, the FDNY and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey responded to reports of a water main break in Terminal 4 just after 1:30 p.m. No injuries were reported as authorities worked to isolate the broken main.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the main break left three inches of water in the west end of Terminal 4 at JFK, and maintenance crews were sent in to mop and clean up.

PHOTOS: Water Main Break Floods Terminal At JFK

The inner roadway at the arrivals area was closed due to excess water, but the outer roadway remained open.

“Cascaded out onto the frontage and into the inner roadway. With the freezing temperatures, that meant that ice formed. Extremely dangerous,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton.

International flights to Terminal 4 were suspended. Passengers who had already arrived were deplaned and taken to other terminals for processing, the Port Authority said.

Restrooms were also closed, a livery driver told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern. The restrooms were later reopened, but the chaos continued.

“People see children crying; let us go,” the driver said.

The problems compounded even more as the afternoon went on. The Port Authority said electricity was immediately turned off for safety, and thus, power and heat were out in about 80 percent of the west end of Terminal 4.

Terminal 4 had finally reopened by 8 p.m. and flights had resumed with delays. But in all on Sunday, there were 352 delays and 46 cancellations at JFK.

Overnight, strangers huddled for warmth as fellow travellers were confused, frustrated, or downright outraged after spending yet another night at the airport.

“I’m so angry words can’t even express how I feel right now,” Bill Carver from Austin, Texas said.

READLack Of Available Gates Leads To Major Delays At JFK Airport

Tensions ran high as thousands shared horror stories. One group managed to forage cardboard and build ramshackle “neighborhoods.” Others were stuck on dark planes on the tarmac for upwards of a day, waiting to deplane or even take off.

“I was on the plane for a good 20 hours,” frustrated traveller Michelle Lopez said told CBS2’s Reena Roy. “They took us out once to eat, then we went back to the plane.”

Dimitri Grigoryev said he had been stuck at the airport for three days.

“This is the third day, starting now,” he said. “There are 300 passengers there and I should say they’re becoming restless.”

The Port Authority said the snowstorm and extreme cold created a cascading series of problems, including frozen equipment, issues with baggage claim, and staff shortages.

The Port Authority also said there weren’t enough gates to handle the backlog of rescheduled flights since Thursday’s snowstorm forced countless cancellations.

“In terms of why did the cascading failures occur, they occurred because the airlines and the terminal operators could not move aircraft out of gates at the normal rate that they had predicted,” Cotton said.

Additional staff were called in Saturday night to help, after 94 additional flights were scrapped.

Baggage was another issue entirely.

“We got to this airport at four in the morning,” passenger Rachel Greene said. “We’ve been waiting for our luggage since then. They say it’s coming, but it’s not coming.”

“We got here we had to stay on the runway for an hour and a half and we still can’t get our luggage. They said come back tomorrow,” said Lisa Brown. “It’s ridiculous. I just want to go home.”

“When we first got here, they told us it could be hours if not days before we got her luggage, so I’m hoping that’s not the case,” said Kim Halsey.

“They’re not telling us where are bags are; when we’re getting them. They’re not telling us anything,” said Felipe Encarnacion.

On Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration was forced to limit some flights into the airport including all incoming into Terminal 1. Greene says she’s never seen anything like it.

“It makes me not want to fly anywhere and definitely not out of JFK,” she said.

Even though he urged patience whenever temperatures plummet, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said the debacle at Kennedy Airport went well beyond the normal weather hassles.

“It seemed like almost everything broke down, it seemed like a disaster,” Schumer said on Sunday. “Whether it’s the runways not being plowed, whether it’s the baggage machines that transport the baggage freezing, whether it’s not notifying people what’s going on.”

Schumer said he wants the Port Authority to review what exactly went wrong. The Port Authority said normal coordination broke down.

“Saturday was, bluntly, was a serious breakdown,” Cotton said. “The expected coordination between terminal operators and airlines to assure that gates are available on a timely basis to receive arriving aircraft – that coordination obviously did not take place.”

CBS2 asked the Port Authority why JFK had so many more issues with the snowstorm than LaGuardia Airport or Newark Liberty International Airport. No response had been received early Sunday evening.

The Port Authority late Sunday was investigating what caused the water pipe to burst.

Comments (31)
  1. Lilith Whyte says:

    Somehow, racism was involved. Just wait.

  2. A peek into the future of self driving cars. Relying too much on automated systems is a blueprint for situations as this or worse. Those in charge are not able to come up with solutions because their skill sets don’t include creative thinking or knowledge of how they used to do things.

  3. Al Marshall says:

    Ya Schumer one of the 3 NY stooges! Him, Griffo, and Coumo. Griffo, ignores tax payers, and will send cops if he does not like what you say to his staff, as he did to me! 3 idiots who have no business in this office they occupy not one is aware of the 2nd amendment and they all love HRC!

  4. Cazz O'Neil says:

    Schumer should be spending money on infrastructure instead of making MS13 gang members and their chain relatives permanent citizens

  5. Kevin Vogts says:

    Why, why, why is it so impossible to send out stairs and busses to at least get people off the planes? Every airport and airline should have a backup procedure, protocols,and equipment for this after people have been confined for whatever reason for a certain period of time on a plane on the tarmac.

  6. The storm was forecast more than a day in advance – nothing occurred that was not forecast, yet the various airlines failed, as they usually do, to react to events. Why would planes be allowed to land there if the terminal was in chaos? Yet another reason to avoid NYC and flying, if at all possible. Also, better to plan vacations away from the core of the winter storm season.

  7. timefortrump says:

    This is the state of our infrastructure after 16 years of grifters in the White House. Trump is right again – our airports are worse than a third world country! #MAGA – I guarantee Trump will have these sorry pieces of banana republic monuments upgraded to first world status before the end of his first term as President. We love you Trump. It makes me happy to see liberal NY suffering under their own stupidity

  8. Love seeing Chuckies constituents howling, that is what happens when you are all politics all the time.

  9. Dee Win says:

    I’m still staggered by the passenger that said they took them off the plane to eat, then put them back o the plane. WHO would get BACK on the plane?!

    1. Anyone who didn’t want to get arrested. At an airport in Nazi York City, you could go to prison for not complying with airport security these days.

  10. Year after year Democrats are running the Port Authority and for that matter all of our major airports, is it any wonder that these types of debacles are the rule rather than the exception? Now Chuckie Schumer wants an “investigation” of what? DEMOCRAT INCOMPETENCE? No the conclusion will be to blame the airlines.

    1. Fred Smith says:

      It’s not just Democrats, this is the direct result of diversity. Hiring low IQ, amoral, affirmative action workers will make any business or govt THIRD WORLD. Guess who’s stealing items out of luggage, it’s minority baggage handlers. Why does the NYC subway have so many problems? Minority perform.

      Here’s another example. The Minneapolis police dept until 2012 used to use a 5 test psych eval, they dropped it down to one. They are now lowering them again because it screens out too many minorities. The 5 test is considered the standard and a study in 2004 found that the officers flagged as concerning by the tests were three times more likely to engage in misconduct. Remember that Minneapolis PD hired the Somali who murdered the unarmed white woman. We are getting a THIRD WORLD police force now.

  11. Who, in their right mind, is STILL flying in today’s Amerikan “homeland?”
    What is WRONG with you people?

    1. Jenna Lucas says:

      Mark, please get some help for yourself. It’s not too late.

    2. timefortrump says:

      I have not flown on our pathetic airlines since 2010 – mostly because they treat customers like terrorists but also because they try to squeeze more people in and don’t even give you a meal. I also do not trust the stability of the planes. Where are they being serviced again – Mexico? No thanks!

  12. How can that happen? When they come to Florida, the first thing out of their mouth is, “Everything is better in New York”….

  13. Mark Deckard says:

    Isnt it against federal regulation to hold people on a plane more than 3 hours?

    1. I wouldn’t care if it was illegal or not. After 3 hours I’m getting off the plane whether that’s at a terminal or on the tarmac and with flight crew help or using them as the battering ram to open the door.

    2. David Teer says:

      From my understanding, it is not illegal per se. Airline may incur fine after a certain time frame. But acts of God are probably exempted from the fine list. The fines are to try and prevent airline carelessness from causing delays. This was caused by the Airport ie guberment and act of God

  14. No f’n way you’re keeping me on a plane for 24 hours. I’d rather occupy a jail cell.

  15. Kevin Somers says:

    Another DEMOCRAT RUN P.O.S.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Don Steele says:

    Yet ANOTHER reason to fly on my private jet……..

  17. Max Conrad says:

    The exact reason I live in Arizona

  18. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer group of liberal loudmouth lunatics. Obey your Democrat port authority masters.

  19. Democrat Communist State…go figure

  20. I was stuck on fully loaded 747, on the tarmac, Bangkok…took twelve hours to finally get airborne. No riots but that plane sure did stink.

  21. I recently had to make two round trips to Houston, Texas. The first one I took United Air lines. The second I took AmTraK. I prefer AmTrak.

    1. John Becvar says:

      Amtrak does not run to Houston………

      1. Sure does. Amtrak 1 and 2 the Sunset Limited stops in Houston.

  22. Well, my son just spent nearly 30 hours on a JAL flight from Tokyo, First diverted to Chicago then terminated in Boston. The NY PA continues to be overpaid and useless.

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