LAWRENCE (CBS) — As of 7 a.m. Sunday, residents in Merrimack Valley could safely return to their homes, four days after gas explosions and fires forced them out of their homes. Utility crews worked through the weekend to make sure all of the gas meters were off and electricity was on.
Eversource said the recovery process is ongoing but phase one, which was to shut off the 8,600 impacted gas meters and restore 15,000 power outages, is complete.
Lawrence schools will be closed Monday.
Without gas service, many residents in North Andover, Andover, and Lawrence will be without heat, hot water or the ability to cook. It will take two more phases to restore gas: “assessing the damage to the low-pressure gas system” and “technicians inspecting all gas equipment from the meter, where gas enters a building, and throughout a building to all the appliances,” according to MEMA.
Residents should not attempt to turn on the gas themselves. Also, call 911 if you discover any fire damage.
Watch the latest official update:
At a press conference Sunday morning, Gov. Baker warned those returning home to remain vigilant and patient. He also offered thanked responders and residents for their recovery work and cooperation.
“We want to wholeheartedly thank the members of our police and fire departments who have worked nonstop and our utility companies, which are from all over the country, who are making these impacted homes safe. It’s been a difficult and grueling weekend for the residents of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence. I often say the people of Massachusetts are resilient and this devastating situation is no exception,” said Baker.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera was also present. He was emotional as he thanked the community for the support and donations to the Lawrence Emergency Fund.
“People have been very generous. And usually, when we have issues like this it’s really hard to come up with cash because it’s mostly stuff out of people’s hands so the fact that we were able to raise $100,000 in two days is heartwarming. It makes us very thankful. It makes them feel special that people out there care about us — that the Red Sox were taking cash donations at the games, that stuff is really great. So I just want to say the more of that can continue, trust us, we will do right by that money and by your support,” Rivera said.
A recovery resource center will be set up at Arlington Middle School Sunday from 1 – 5 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m – 4 p.m.
“We have our home. We have our family. Everyone’s safe. We can worry about the gas later,” said Najwa Azzi, who returned to her home on Sunday.