Miami International Airport Was an Epic Catastrophe Last Night

Considering that lightning-filled monsoons sweep across Dade County every afternoon this time of year, waiting out weather delays at Miami International Airport is par for the course. The morass travelers encountered last night at MIA, though, was anything but typical.

A double-whammy of busted computers and broken runway lights left thousands trapped at the airport and fuming on Twitter about the delays.

The massive queues above began around 6:30 p.m., when the computer system used by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents went on the fritz. Thousands of passengers trying to get through passport controls found themselves snarled in barely moving lines.

For more than two hours, a back-up system allowed only a few passengers at a time through the passport checks while connecting flights were missed, tempers spiked, and passengers took to Twitter to vent at MIA in all its glory.

"This is an out-of-the-ordinary situation," airport spokesman Gregory Chin told the Miami Herald. "We worked with the CBP as best we can."

If that wasn't bad enough, about half an hour after the CPB's computers went back online, MIA's runways suffered a blackout that erased landing lights on the airport's two north runways.

All landing flights had to divert to just one runway while the problem was being fixed, and dozens of flights that already landed couldn't make their way to the gates.

It wasn't until about 10 p.m. that the blackout ended and life could return to the normal level of hellish stress and annoyance that is air travel in the 21st Century.

Which all raises the question: How in hell did this happen?

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink