(CBS) — Metra was hit with a storm of complaints regarding a bogus tornado warning and a stalled train Monday. The Metra delays impacted 33 trains, some with delays as long as two hours.

Metra says they have an on-time performance record well past 90%, but the rush hour back-up Monday, impacting thousands, was nothing to boast about.

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Commuter Briah Avery of Evergreen Park said, “I got downstairs and it’s just chaos everywhere. Nowhere to stand and nowhere to move.”

Problems began when a mechanical complication stopped a southwest suburban train in its tracks near Union Station. A domino effect kept three lines from operating.

A strong, but manageable storm passed over Chicago Monday, as well. With no alerts from the National Weather Service, Runs on Metra’s busiest line, the BNSF, were halted because of an apparent tornado warning.

Metra blamed the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, which runs the line. BNSF pointed the finger at its contracted forecaster AccuWeather.

Weather service radar showed strong storms in the area, but at 6:35 p.m. Monday, BNSF received an AccuWeather tornado warning near Downers Grove, in effect from 6:50 to 7:15. At 6:43 the warning was extended to 7:35, but at 7:21, the warnings were cancelled.

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“Once the conductor came across, everyone starting asking him, but he didn’t have any updates,” said another train commuter.

This all happened hundreds of miles from Chicago. AccuWeather, in State College Pennsylvania, sent warnings to the BNSF Operations Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Dispatchers then communicated to train crews in the Chicago area.

AccuWeather says safety warnings were triggered by “predetermined parameters” tracked on its systems. They have also triggered a bit of online ridicule over the Metra tornado that never was.

The decisions were made out of an abundance of caution and in the name of safety. Metra kept passengers informed on their social media platforms.

Metra’s top managers did not want to speak or communicate publicly with reporters about the serious and confusing situation.


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