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 footage 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 (-8 Celsius).
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 (7.5 cm) 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.
Terminal 4 is used by more than 30 airlines, including Air India, Delta, Egyptair, El Al, Emirates, Etihad, KLM Royal Dutch, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
Tempers flared for days among exhausted travellers, forced to sleep on the floor of terminals, with others stranded on planes for hours waiting to access a gate and massive delays in baggage claim.
Hugo Zylberberg, a 28-year-old researcher, said while his 11-hour flight from Egypt was on time, it took an hour to find a gate, another hour at customs and then an hour and a half to wait for his luggage.
“There’s still like a hundred people waiting for their luggage,” he said. “I’m pretty exhausted. I’m waiting to get home. It’s kind of crazy,” he said. “People were starting to be pretty angry.”
Rajesh Varadarajan, a 41-year-old software consultant en route from India to Trinidad, whose connecting flight to the Caribbean had been delayed more than 24 hours, said JFK cut a poor comparison to airports such as Dubai or Singapore, and newer airports in his home country.
“It’s far from it, because I mean just look around; there’s no place to sit,” he said. “Even Dunkin’ Donuts is closed.”
On Saturday, Terminal One was briefly closed and 94 flights cancelled and 17 diverted as a result of the extreme cold and storm recovery.
The US East Coast has been gripped by days of record-breaking cold temperatures after a storm on Thursday, labeled a bomb cyclone, which was blamed for at least 22 reported deaths.
Boston, which saw some of the heaviest snow from the storm, froze with a Sunday morning low of minus two degrees Fahrenheit (minus 19 degrees Celsius), matching the previous January 7 record in 1896.
Highs below freezing lingered on the East Coast as far south as North Carolina, with temperatures due to rise from Monday.