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Subway passengers commandeer train to stay warm

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Bloomberg: Clearing streets no. 1 job
  • NEW: Subway passengers commandeered train to stay warm
  • In NYC's Central Park, 19 inches of snowfall beat a single-day record set in 1925
  • Forecasters said Newark reached 19 inches of snow while Philadelphia totaled 15 inches
  • Some flights are canceled in Philadelphia, Boston

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New York (CNN) -- Subway passengers who were stranded on Coney Island, New York, because of the overnight snowstorm refused to get off of a train because they had no other way to stay warm, riders said Thursday.

The passengers stayed in a "sweeper" train, which was supposed to clear tracks and make sure no passengers or trains were stuck between stations, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said.

MTA employees tried to get them off the N Train at the Coney Island terminal, a passenger said.

"I said, 'I have no where to go, I'm not leaving,'" passenger Eva Mahoney told CNN affiliate NY1. "There's no way I'm gonna get home because I remember the [December] blizzard."

Many of the passengers slept or just waited for a few hours until they could catch a train around 6 a.m., she said.

"If this train is the sweeper train, put us in the one next to it," Mahoney said.

Gallery: Snow covers the Northeast
Snow keeps coming in Northeast
Snow already, and more snow to come
Cars covered in icicles

The drama began when the riders left Manhattan for Brooklyn, NY1 reported. They were told to get off and take the train to Coney Island. When they arrived there was no bus service, passengers said. That's when they decided to stay on the sweeper train.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said that, based on December's storm, the agency "implemented new strategies last night to ensure the safety of passengers and facilitate a quick return to service this morning."

MTA acted to shut down service so as not to strand passengers, he said in a statement.

"In the case of the N Train, we were able to safely park the train at its Coney Island terminal as planned."

The agency could have done a better job communicating with customers "on the need to dispatch one of the trains as a nonpassenger sweeper train to clear tracks, and making them comfortable in the terminal until service was restored," he said.

The major snowstorm that pelted much of the Northeast tapered off Thursday, but many schools, government offices and some airport runways were expected to remain closed, officials said.

Storms that stretched from the southern Appalachian Mountains to coastal Massachusetts are the latest in a slew of wintry weather that continues to blanket much of the region.

Even though the storm lasted a single day, it caused major problems in some areas, posting record snowfall numbers across the region, according to the National Weather Service.

In New York's Central Park, 19 inches of snow fell overnight into Thursday, beating a single day record set in 1925, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters.

"Keep an eye on your neighbors," he said, warning New Yorkers to check on elderly residents in neighborhoods across the city.

Forecasters said Newark, New Jersey, reached 19 inches of snow, while Philadelphia totaled 15 inches.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter lifted the city's snow emergency Thursday evening.

Bus systems in Philadelphia were running at 10 percent, said mayoral spokeswoman Katie Martin, having been shut down during overnight hours in expectation of the heavy snow fall.

Federal employees and most schools in Washington ended business early Wednesday. Public schools and most government offices stayed closed Thursday, officials said.

At Philadelphia International Airport, 173 flights were canceled for Thursday as of about 8 a.m., officials said. About 1,500 passengers were stranded at the airport overnight.

At Boston Logan International airport, about 200 flights were canceled Thursday beginning at 6 a.m., officials said.

Amtrak suspended service from New York to Boston and from New Haven to Springfield on Thursday, and reduced its service between New York and Albany, the train service said

Runways were closed at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport in the Washington suburbs on Wednesday evening, said Rob Yingling, spokesman for Metro Washington Airports Authority.

"The intense snow has really been going since late afternoon, and it wasn't too long after that that aircraft activity trailed off dramatically and then subsequently the snow got so heavy that we had to close the runways while we continued plowing them with our snow team," Yingling said.

But by Thursday afternoon, Dulles airport had reopened a single runway while officials at Reagan National Airport reported they had reopened runways.

Also in New York, the city's transit bus service remained suspended in the Bronx, while officials said service is being evaluated and restored on a route by route basis in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan, the Metropolitan Transit Authority said Thursday.

CNN's Rick Vincent and Julie Cannold contributed to this report.