Officials: Lawrence Residents Can Return Home

Officials announced Saturday afternoon that everyone in Lawrence, Massachusetts, can now return to their homes after they were evacuated Friday morning due to a gas leak.

About 30 addresses on South Broadway Street will have service restored by 3 p.m. Saturday, and the rest will be restored by 10 p.m., officials said at a press conference. All electric has been restored.

Friday's leak brought back painful memories for a city still scarred the deadly Merrimack Valley gas explosions last September.

John Farrington, who owns Carleen's Coffee Shop on South Broadway in Lawrence, had to close his store for the second time in about a year. The constant closures, he said, are destroying his business.

"I'm pretty much going out of business," he said.

He's been digging himself out of a $50-60,000 financial hole after closing for some time following last year's explosions, he said.

Farrington says the coffee shop has seen a drop in customers.

"A lot of them aren't coming anymore because I'm closed down so often," he said.

Brandon Difo, a Lawrence resident and dad, was one of hundreds of people evacuated around 4 a.m. Friday.

In the middle of the night, police went around to neighborhoods telling residents to evacuate. Tired and weary residents made their way to the Arlington Middle School shelter.

"Once I saw the police go by, I just took my kids and ran out," Difo said.

He says he can't help but be anxious after last year's explosions.

"It sucks because it's the anniversary of what happened last year and it's starting again, like deja vu," he said.

No one was hurt in this latest gas leak, but residents say the constant upheaval has been frustrating.

"I don't think everybody had fully recovered from that, and it's pretty sad that now, this is happening again," Difo said. "I thought the issue was fixed."

Difo was able to return home Friday night, as were most of the other displaced residents. The American Red Cross of Massachusetts put up 31 families in hotels Friday night. Columbia Gas crews worked overnight Friday night to restore gas service to about 150 effected homes and businesses.

Officials offered counseling to residents at the Weatherby School from 9-11 a.m. Saturday.

In a joint statement by the city and Columbia Gas Friday, officials said contractors working for the city of Lawrence inadvertently closed a gas valve, puncturing an active gas main.

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