LAWRENCE (CBS) – A major gas leak in Lawrence Friday morning forced at least 250 people to evacuate their homes. For some, this is the second time in just over a year that they’ve been forced to seek shelter after a Columbia Gas incident.

Christalee Quezada was one of the Lawrence residents sheltering at the Arlington Middle School. She lives on Newton Street and was out of her home for a month following last year’s Merrimack Valley explosions.

“I was sleeping and then I was hearing sirens,” Quezada said, describing to WBZ-TV how her day started. “I heard somebody saying ‘everybody evacuate!’”

Christalee Quezada (WBZ-TV)

Considering everything she had to deal with last year, she wasted no time leaving her house with her dog this morning.

“I got really panicked, honestly, I got scared,” she said. “I didn’t want to be home.”

She wasn’t sure when she’d be able to return home on Friday.

“I already had to deal with it last year, I’m not trying to go through it again,” she said.

Lawrence resident Angela Cuevas said she saw firefighters knocking on doors and got all eight people out of her house.

“Everybody was in panic,” she told WBZ-TV. “I took my family outside, even my cat.”

She said last year’s explosions were a “bit more terrifying” because houses were on fire, but being woken up in the middle of the night was also scary.

“We don’t feel safe,” she said.

Many people at the shelter was stressed about the evacuation and the uncertainty about when they can return home.

“Freak out, the anxiety, panic, I’m on anxiety medicines so right now I’m very shaky. It’s crazy,” Lori Martin said.

The Red Cross and the Salvation Army were at the middle school Friday morning, helping to keep about 250 to 275 evacuees warm and fed. Residents are staying in the gymnasium because students still have classes.

Red Cross spokesman Jeff Hall told WBZ-TV that the organization worked closely with Arlington Middle School when it was a shelter during last year’s explosions.

“What we’ve learned from last year is just reestablishing relationships and keeping them solid with the city of Lawrence and with MEMA to make sure that we have the facilities and we have the supplies in place to help these people out this morning,” he said.

Some residents were able to return home later in the day, but with no power.

“I’m just wondering how I stay with no power,” said resident Norma Riley.

Many residents expressed frustration. “You’ve got to fix it and fix it somehow,” one resident said.

Residents in the South Broadway area still cannot return home because work is still being done there.


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