• Costs adding up for Merrimack Valley residents following gas explosions

    By: Jim Morelli

    Updated:

    Residents in Merrimack Valley who evacuated because of last week's gas explosions were allowed to head home today. But for some, the costs are beginning to add up. 

    Initially the costs might seem relatively small. For some residents that can include the hotel rooms they had to camp in or the cost of food that had to be tossed out once they got home. For others the eventual cost of repair could be enormous, with damaged appliances and even damaged foundations to mend. 

    Still, they got out alive and they know there's no price you can put on that.

    It's something felt even stronger in the Chickering Road neighborhood in North Andover, where one of the gas explosions flattened a house resulting in the only fatality from the mass incident.

    "My wife, my daughter, my four-year-old grandson were here at the time... they felt the explosion in their chest," said Lawrence resident, Mike Grenier. "They were totally distraught... understandably. We've been here 41 years, it's by far the worst thing we've experienced."

    The State of Massachusetts opened up a recovery resource center at a local school in Lawrence to help people deal with long-term issues they might face after being displaced.

    Christopher Besse from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said there are different agencies for everyone. "For example, the division of insurance if people need help with insurance," he said. "[Or] the Division of Mental Health in case people need mental health counseling." 

    The center has also become a place of hope and perseverance, with the words "Lawrence Strong" written up at the entrance.

    Shannon Hohenadel and her family, former Lawrence residents, are one example of what that means. They drove down from New Hampshire with donations to help ease the burden just a little.

    "[We brought] diapers and stuff like that. The kids donated some of their toys for the kids," she said. "So... that's all, just happy to help. So weird to see it hit so close to home."  

    MORE: MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS: Where you can donate, volunteer

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