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Flooding at JFK airport adds to misery after flight delays

By Daniel Trotta

January 07. 2018 9:37PM
Passengers rest at a service desk in the departures area of Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City following a series of flight delays and cancellations on Sunday. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

NEW YORK — Flooding from a water main break forced the temporary suspension of some flights at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday, adding to the misery of travelers after a winter storm canceled or delayed hundreds of flights in recent days.

Water poured from the ceiling onto a check-in counter and covered large areas of the floor of Terminal 4, video on CNN showed. The disruption occurred while the U.S. Northeast continued to endure bone-chilling weather with the New York temperature at 17 degrees Fahrenheit.

International flights to Terminal 4 were temporarily suspended and passengers who had already arrived there were diverted to other terminals, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport.

The Port Authority said the water pipe break appears to be weather related. Flights later resumed but with delays, it said.

“What happened at JFK Airport is unacceptable, and travelers expect and deserve better,” Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said in a statement.

The authority said a water pipe that feeds the terminal’s sprinkler system broke, which caused flooding and a led to a temporary power cut in some areas as a safety measure.

The airport on Twitter advised travelers to check with their airlines before arriving.

There were about 3 inches of water inside the west end of Terminal 4, Scott Ladd, a spokesman for the Port Authority, said in an email.

The flooding hit just as the airport was crawling back to normal after a winter storm labeled a “bomb cyclone” forced the airport to close on Thursday.

When operations resumed on Friday, the backlog led to hundreds more delays or cancellations, crowding the terminals with stranded passengers.

More than 500 flights into or out of JFK were canceled and nearly 1,400 delayed from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.

The extreme cold and recovery from Thursday’s snow storm created a “cascading series of issues for the airlines and terminal operators,” the Port Authority said.

Equipment froze and baggage handling was delayed, which was compounded by staff shortages and heavier than normal passenger loads, the Port Authority said. The backlog left passengers stuck on planes for long stretches while waiting for other aircraft to get in and out of gates.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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