Irene Travel Disruptions Continue

Two days after the departure of Irene, traveling up and down the East Coast remains a daunting challenge for many. Some air travelers remain stranded at major airports. And passenger rail service is still disrupted between Philadelphia and New York, one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the country.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Travel up and down much of the East Coast is still a daunting challenge. NPR's Joel Rose went out to see just how daunting. He found some air travelers still stranded at airports and he found this out the hard way - rail service between Philadelphia and New York is still disrupted.

JOEL ROSE: On a normal day, the commute from Philadelphia into New York City takes me about two hours, but today has anything but normal. Amtrak service is still suspended between Philadelphia and New York. All the morning buses were sold out, so I tried to catch a train from Trenton. Turns out, New Jersey transit is suspended between New Brunswick and Trenton, so after a massive traffic jam in central New Jersey, I'm on a train. What's normally a two-hour commute is approaching four hours and I'm still not there.

Amtrak and New Jersey transit officials say they're still cleaning up from massive flooding at the train station in Trenton, but my problems - turns out they were mild compared to what I found at Newark Liberty Airport. How long have you been here?

ORSHI FABO: Two days.

ROSE: Orshi Fabo(ph) and her friend had tickets to fly home to Hungary on Friday. Instead, they've spent four nights in airports - two in Miami and two here in Newark.

FABO: We haven't got tickets to Hungary and Lufthansa is closed, so we don't know how, have to wait.

ROSE: So where are you staying? Are you staying in a hotel or are you literally staying here in the airport?

FABO: At the airport because we don't have money to pay for a hotel or a hostel.

ROSE: At least Newark offered them cots. In Miami, Fabo says, they had to sleep on the floor. But Fabo's story seemed like the exception. Airlines are running extra flights and some expect they will get through their backlogs of stranded flyers as soon as today.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIRPORT SECURITY LOUDSPEAKER)

ROSE: Over at terminal C most travelers seem to be happily heading home.

HAROLD FURMAN: So I'm trying to get back to Tel Aviv and I was originally scheduled to go back Sunday. And, of course, it was canceled.

ROSE: Harold Furman(ph) was visiting his parents in upstate New York when Irene hit. At first, the airline told Furman he'd have to wait 'til September 4th to fly back, but in the end, they put him on a flight leaving today.

FURMAN: I was supposed to be at work back in Israel two days ago. So being two days late rather than a week late is a good thing, at this point.

ROSE: New York's commuter rail service is gradually getting back up to speed, too. On Monday, Grand Central terminal was oddly deserted during morning rush hour, as the Metro north railroad suspended all trains to and from the northern suburbs and Connecticut. The Metro north says it's now serving 85 percent of its peak customers. Vincent Papo(ph) rode the Harlem line about 60 miles into Manhattan.

VINCENT PAPO: I had no problem today. The train was on time and it was not delayed and we went - got to Grand Central on time.

ROSE: Metro north says it's restored service on its three main lines, though service on some smaller branches is still suspended and the trains that are running are crowded, says Naomi Greenbaum(ph) of Stamford, Connecticut.

NAOMI GREENBAUM: I caught the train on time. It was crowded, but I was very lucky. Could they get better? Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I guess, as a New Yorker, you've sort of been commuting for a while, you just get used to it. If you need to make money and get to work, you get used to it.

ROSE: Or you do what Greenbaum did on Monday, ask the boss to let you work from home, please? Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

SIEGEL: Some good news for commuters - Amtrak says its train service between Philadelphia and New York will be back on track tomorrow.

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