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‘Major’ gas leak in Lawrence gives residents flashbacks of 2018

by Michael Levenson and Emily Sweeney, Boston Globe

A gas leak forced hundreds of panicked residents to flee their homes in Lawrence before daybreak Friday, sowing fear in a neighborhood still recovering from the deadly gas fires and explosions a year ago.

Residents described police and firefighters banging on their doors at 4 a.m. and telling them to get out.

Lori Martin, a 53-year-old disabled homeowner, said she grabbed a pocketbook and sweater and hurried to a Walgreens parking lot, where she was loaded onto a bus and brought to Arlington Middle School, where 400 displaced residents were given food and temporary shelter.

Officials late Friday said the leak was triggered when contractors preparing for road work for the city of Lawrence were checking water valves in the area, and “inadvertently closed a gas valve,” puncturing a gas main. Officials added that the gas valve was “not compliant” with state standards and should have been disabled during construction work a year ago.

The mass evacuation came barely one year after a natural gas catastrophe on Sept. 13, 2018, caused more than 100 fires and explosions, killed one man, and displaced hundreds of residents, and just three days after the National Transportation Safety Board placed the blame for the disaster on local utility Columbia Gas.

Martin, who lived without heat and hot water for four months after last year’s gas explosions, said she was terrified to be contending with another gas crisis. “I’m very shaky,” she said Friday. “I’ve got such a headache right now. And it’s just stress.”


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