Merrimack Valley

Merrimack Valley Residents Struggle Without Gas, Heat as Temperatures Drop

Felix Ovalles and his wife were startled to discover the smell of smoke in their home Sunday morning.

“And she goes, 'Call 911, call 911,'” said the Lawrence resident. “And I go, 'Yeah let’s see first what’s going on.'”

He said he touched the floor and it was warm, so they called 911.

Rosie Ovalles, one of Felix's daughters, says she was scared and nervous.

“I didn’t know what to think,” she said.

Firefighters arrived to the family’s Winthrop Avenue home in Lawrence around 5:30 a.m. Sunday.

Felix said officials told him his home’s electrical system is fried because of the family's use of space heaters.

Now the Ovalles family is evacuating their home.

Felix and his family have been using space heaters because, like thousands throughout Merrimack Valley, they haven’t had gas since the Merrimack Valley explosions a month ago.

“It’s kind of like hard to like do some stuff," Diane Ovalles, another one of Felix's children, said. “Like to make the hot water and everything.”

For now, the family will stay with relatives. However, as winter approaches, the seven-person family isn’t sure how they’ll live in their home.

It's a cold reality for many other people in the region who don't have gas, heat or hot water.

Gabriel Matos, who is also a resident of Lawrence, is one of the many facing these issues.

“We’re warming up the water right here, and we put it in a bucket and we throw the hot water you know what I mean,” he said. “And then back again and we take a shower.”

Carmela Cestrone, a Lawrence resident, says she was given a hotplate and she's been doing her cooking on it.

Felix Ovalles says he needs help from Columbia Gas, but hasn't gotten much.

“I heard of people getting a new boiler and they haven’t come to seen mine yet,” he said.

Columbia Gas must meet a Nov. 19 deadline to have all repairs made and restore gas service to impacted customers.

To date, the company has completed 56 percent of the project.

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