- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2015

Frigid temperatures forecast for the next several days have Metro officials weary of the potential for weather-related problems on the tracks, like those that made Thursday’s morning commute a dire affair.

Cracked rails affected service on four Metro lines and a train broke down on a fifth line, requiring cars to alternate on a single-track to move around it.

Metro officials blamed the issues on the quick drop in temperatures.

“The two cracked rails were most likely caused by the extreme temperatures we were seeing this morning,” Metro spokeswoman Caroline Laurin said. “To go from mid-60-degree weather to temperatures in the single digits, that’s where the problems occur.”

The expansion and contraction of the metal train track rails when the temperature changes rapidly is what can cause the cracks, Ms. Laurin said.

Temperatures are forecast to rise to the low 30s Friday but will dip back down into the teens and 20s through the weekend. And it’s expected to stay cold.

SEE ALSO: D.C. left cold by Muriel Bowser’s snow response

“No big warm ups for the next week,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Snyder said.

On days that extreme temperatures are expected, Metro brings on extra staff to be able to react quickly to any issues. But Ms. Laurin cautioned that, while crews regularly survey the system’s 230 miles of track, it is difficult to predict where and when a crack might occur.

“Predicting a cracked rail is about difficult as predicting an earthquake,” Ms. Laurin said. “Knowing exactly where it will occur is a real challenge.”

As a result, response to a cracked rail or other weather-related issue tends to be “more of an all hands on deck reaction.”

Thursday’s cracks occurred on the Orange and Silver lines just outside the East Falls Church station and the Green and Yellow lines outside the Prince George’s Plaza station. A disabled train also caused delays on the red line near the Grosvenor-Strathmore station.

Frustrated commuters took to Twitter to vent about the delays Thursday morning, tweeting photos of overcrowded platforms. Others documented their wait time for a train, noting that trains that did arrive at Metro stations were often too crowded for those waiting to board.

The Associated Press reported that one rider compared the morning commute to “The Hunger Games” series, which depicts children killing each other to survive. Another said he was expecting the scene to turn into “Lord of the Flies” after he witnessed two women arguing about whose purse was touching whom.

Ms. Laurin encouraged customers affected by the delays to contact Metro’s customer service representatives, noting that all complaints will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Metro as a policy does not issue refunds, but Ms. Laurin said it does at times offer free trips and wants to make sure that affected riders are compensated.

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