By Kristina Rex

LAWRENCE (CBS) – Despite winterization efforts to more than 160 customers, Columbia Gas has what a spokesperson calls a “small number” of customers who have broken pipes after the historic Thanksgiving cold.

Among the victims is Yohanny Cespedes and her family of six. They were scheduled to come home on Wednesday after a two-month stay in a hotel because of the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. “I was confident that nothing was going to happen [to my house],” she told WBZ. “[Columbia] drained all the water. I was supposed to come back home nice and safe.”

Instead, she came home Wednesday morning to water pouring through her kitchen ceiling. Columbia Gas quickly sent plumbers, who told her a pipe burst, dripping water into three of her home’s four apartments.

Yohanny Cespedes (WBZ-TV)

“I’m sad now,” Cespedes said.

“Atención” and “Condemned” are typed in bold letters across yellow and red tags that hang on her stove, washer, and dryer. A puddle sits on her kitchen floor, with two large buckets to catch any extra water. A ceiling light is shattered to pieces on the ground, broken by the water coming from the ceiling.

Cespedes has four kids, ages 21, 7, 4, and 11 months. Her 7 and 4-year-olds play by a space heater while mom talks to the plumbers.

Tag indicating winterization at Yohanny Cespedes’ home (WBZ-TV)

Her baby daughter turns one on Thursday, and she planned to have her entire family over to celebrate the baby’s birthday and their warm home. She had to cancel the party because of the leaking pipe.

When Cespedes picked her 7 and 4 year olds up from school, she had to tell them they weren’t going home, but back to a hotel. “[My daughter] gave me the sigh,” she said. “I’m tired [of being] in the hotel. I want to come back home in my comfy bed.”

The question remains: when can the family of six sleep in its own beds again? Cespedes doesn’t know the answer, and won’t until plumbers figure out a timeline. She doesn’t blame Columbia Gas for the burst pipe, and says she sees gas employees hard at work every day. Still, she’s getting frustrated. “I’m not comfortable in the hotel,” she said. “I just want to come back home.”

Kristina Rex


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