Timeline of events during Merrimack Valley gas explosions

Multiple agencies from Massachusetts and New Hampshire responded to dozens of fires triggered by gas explosions in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover on Thursday, Sept. 13. 

Fire departments in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover struck a 10-alarm response at around 5:00 p.m. that day.

MORE: MERRIMACK VALLEY GAS EXPLOSIONS: AG Maura Healey offers tips for residents

The Red Cross said one shelter remains open, at Arlington Middle School, 150 Arlington St., Lawrence, for people who cannot return to their homes.

>> How to help: Where you can donate, volunteer


Monday, Sept. 17

3:40 p.m.: Students at Lawrence Public Schools will be back in class on Sept. 18 after getting the all-clear from the gas and electric companies.

11:30 a.m.: The Andover Community Services Department will be offering free continental breakfast and a hot lunch every day through Friday, Sept. 21. Residents are asked to call and register at 978-623-8320. Meals will be served from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.

10:08 a.m.: Gov. Charlie Baker will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. with updates on the response.

10:03 a.m.: The Columbia Gas property claim center is open until 9 p.m. at the High School Learning Center, 58 Lawrence St. in Lawrence.

9:45 a.m.: Updated list of North Andover streets that are impacted and not impacted: "The non-impacted list contains those streets that the re-lights will occur on IF you have called the Columbia Gas 1800 number (1-866-388-3239). If you have not, or if you have left your home and returned to find a note from Columbia that they were there but no one was home, please call 1-866-388-3239."

7:54 a.m.: The North Andover town manager says about 500 technicians are relighting gas for customers in North Andover and Andover. If you will not be home, they ask that you leave your phone number on the door.

5:22 a.m.  Andover residents with P.O. Boxes can pick up mail at the North Reading USPS Administration Building, 74 Main St., Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

4:52 a.m.: Federal investigators from the NTSB will remain in the Merrimack Valley this week as they work to pinpoint the exact cause of the explosions.

3:41 a.m.: Greater Lawrence Technical School will not hold classes Sept. 17 but will be open to GLTS and Lawrence High School students, according to Superintendent John Lavoie. The building will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with school staff on site.

Sunday, Sept. 16

>>Costs adding up for Merrimack Valley residents following gas explosions

4:25 p.m.: NiSource CEO Joe Jamrock of the parent company for Columbia Gas spoke after NTSB's media briefing, and talk about the impacts the gas explosions have had on the daily lives of those in the Merrimack Valley.

"It's heartbreaking to see this devastation and this tragedy," Hamrock said. "On a scale this large, with the impact that we saw, there were opportunities certainly to provide better communications in the early hours."

Hamrock said they have a restoration plan to replace all of the old, cast-iron gas pipes, and they will be supporting local officials in helping families until gas is restored to thousands of impacted homes.

"We're in this for the long run," Hamrock said. "We're here to commit resources, all that's necessary to restore our customers and these communities to normal, everyday life."


CEO of NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas, speaks after NTSB's media briefing.

Posted by Boston 25 News on Sunday, September 16, 2018

4:00 p.m.: NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt addressed the media in what they say was their last on-scene press briefing, and said that evidence showed pressure sensors were attached to a gas line that was being placed out of service.

"The NTSB can confirm at this time that this was indeed an over-pressure situation," Sumwalt said. "We believe that the gas did indeed flow into homes at significantly greater flow rates and pressure."

Sumwalt said several interviews are scheduled to figure out the cause for the issue.


NTSB addressing media and providing update on situation following Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

Posted by Boston 25 News on Sunday, September 16, 2018

3:32 p.m.: All Lawrence court locations will be fully operational on Monday, while Lawrence Public Schools announced that schools will be closed.

11:30 a.m.: North Andover Public Schools have been cleared by the town, gas company and fire department and will re-open Monday, Sept. 17.

The Shelter at North Andover High School is scheduled to close at 1:00 pm Sunday.  The Red Cross and North Andover Emergency Management will continue to support and provide resources to people in need.

10:30 a.m.: All Andover Public Schools and after school activities will resume normally on Monday, Sept. 17. Buses will operate on normal schedules and food services will be available at all schools.

9:00 a.m.: All ramps and roads that had been closed due to the Merrimack Valley explosions and fires are now open.

7:30 a.m.: As Andover, North Andover and Lawrence residents have all been cleared to return to their homes, local officials are urging people to not turn on their gas on their own. Please have a professional turn your gas back on.

Gov. Baker is asking residents to remain patient, vigilant and careful as phase one of the recovery process is nearly complete to turn off nearly 8,600 impacted gas meters, clear homes of gas and restore electricity.

As of 6:30 a.m., all impacted gas meters were checked and cleared by gas utility officials and approximately 15,000 power outages have been restored.

Gas service will take longer to restore due to the additional steps involved in the restoration process, such as assessing damage to the low pressure gas system and technician inspections of all gas equipment.

Remember, if you smell gas,go outside and dial 911. For any non-emergency related questions and shelter information, please dial 211.

For more information, Eversource has gas safety tips here and the state's website has any and all other links and contact numbers residents can refer to.

7 a.m.: Residents across Merrimack Valley are now allowed back into their homes, but gas will remain shut off in most homes as restoration efforts continue.

Governor Baker will be addressing the media and providing updates to residents as the investigation continues.

6:30 a.m.: The MBTA is resuming regularly scheduled service on the Haverhill line on the commuter rail starting Sunday, Sept. 16. The train will make all the regularly scheduled stops, including stops at Lawrence, Andover and Ballardvale.

Parking enforcement has been suspended at MBTA-owned parking facilities as the MBTA understands many riders have been unable to remove their cars from parking lots in the area. This means many people won't be charged for parking in the area until train service at the affected train stations is restored.

9:46 p.m.: For a full, updated list of streets that are cleared to return to in North Andover, you can check the town's website here.

7:10 p.m.: Gov. Charlie Baker addressed the media, and said more than 5,000 customers have had power restored after inspections, and Baker said that thousands who evacuated Thursday should be able to return home on Sunday by 7 a.m., unless something unpredictable were to happen.


Gov. Charlie Baker providing update on situation following Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

Posted by Boston 25 News on Saturday, September 15, 2018

Baker also announced a recovery resource center, which will open Sunday in Lawrence. That center will provide services and programs for residents in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

"We are opening this Recovery Resource Center to ensure that the people who were impacted by Thursday’s gas line incident have access to the resources they need to get back on their feet," Baker said.

4:25 p.m.: North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor said the town's been informed that those who have electricity and are not yet on the cleared list can return to their homes.

Saturday, 4:07 p.m.: NTSB officials briefed media on situation, and say they are looking into Columbia Gas's procedures following the gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley on Thursday.


NTSB officials providing update on Merrimack Valley gas explosions and fires.

Posted by Boston 25 News on Saturday, September 15, 2018

Officials said they'd be on scene for seven to 10 days, and said they are the "accident investigators," looking at any testing, failures, inspections and repairs that may have occurred.

NTSB also said they cannot tell anyone when they can return to their homes, or when gas will be restored.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that there doesn't appear to be "anything nefarious, anything suspicious, anything intentional."

6:42 p.m.: Gov. Charlie Baker addresses media after declaring state of emergency, and said it is a mutual effort among utilities, while also thanking the public for their patience. Baker also said Eversource will be opening a command center in the area.

Eversource officials spoke about their involvement in the recovery effort, saying "we're talking weeks" for the timing of the recovery process.

4 p.m.: Columbia Gas addressed the media after Gov. Baker announced Eversource is taking over recovery effort.

3:05 p.m.: Eversource releases statement regarding fires and explosions:

Our hearts go out to our neighbors and everyone affected by this tragic event and we are thankful for the first responders.  We are sending gas crews and equipment to support those communities and Columbia Gas - including 133 people, two emergency communications trailers and a mobile command unit. Our top priority is the safety of the public, our customers and our employees, and while we are sending support teams, we continue to retain the resources we need to serve our customers.
Our systems are not connected to the Columbia Gas system and continue to operate safely. We have a comprehensive maintenance and inspection program, and we have an effective leak management program that exceeds the requirements of federal and state pipeline safety regulations. We also conducted a safety stand down this morning with all of our gas crews to reinforce our commitment to safety and our gas operating procedures that enable safe operation, and we are always evaluating new procedures, technologies and industry best practices to perform at the top standards for the industry.

Eversource urges all natural gas customers to review and follow these important safety tips:

• Be aware that some natural gas heating systems may be impacted in the event of a power interruption. All customers should be prepared in case they lose their heating source
• Keep natural gas meters, all gas appliances and outdoor vents clear to maintain safe operation and access
• Install carbon monoxide detectors and check the batteries routinely
• Do not use a gas stove as a heating source – only use approved heating sources
• If you smell a gas odor in any home or business, move to a safe location and call 9-1-1 immediately

3 p.m.: Governor Charlie Baker declares a state of emergency. Eversource will take over recovery effort from Columbia Gas.

2:50 p.m.: Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera holds news conference on "lack of progress by Columbia Gas in making south Lawrence safe for residents."


Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera speaking on "lack of progress by Columbia Gas in making south Lawrence safe for residents."

Posted by Boston 25 News on Friday, September 14, 2018


1:45 p.m.: MBTA Haverhill Line continue to operate between North Station and Reading Station through Friday evening. No bus or train alternative service is available between North Wilmington and Lawrence on Haverhill Line.

1 p.m.: Where you can donate, volunteer to help victims.

12:30 p.m.: Senator Ed Markey and Senator Elizabeth Warren call for "immediate Senate hearing with representatives from the natural gas industry to understand how this disaster happened and how we make sure it never happens again."

11:30 a.m.: Columbia Gas says in a new statement that customers should not enter their houses unless you have a gas company representative with you. Gas meters will be shut off and a safety check performed before restoring service. Customers should not try to turn the gas back on themselves.

10:53 a.m.: A representative for Columbia Gas arrives in North Andover. Residents have many questions.

10:45 a.m.: Columbia Gas now has a dedicated number for Merrimack Valley customers: 1-866-388-3239.

10:40 a.m.: MassEMA says 3,500 meters were checked overnight and about 8,100 to 8,500 meters are left to check.

10:28 a.m.: Live list of Andover streets that have been cleared to return to.

10:15 a.m.: Residents should not attempt to turn their gas back on. Call Columbia Gas at 1-800-688-6160 or the dedicated number for Merrimack Valley customers at 1-866-388-3239 to get it turned back on.

9:45 a.m.: MassDOT says off-ramps at exits 41 through 44 on Interstate 495 remain closed. Exit 45 on Interstate 93 is closed as well.

9:34 a.m.: Inspectors are leaving color-coded cards on houses that caught fire in Andover alerting residents to its condition and if it has been determined safe to live in.

9:25 a.m.: All school-related activities for Lawrence are canceled for Saturday, Sept. 15.

9:13 a.m.: North Andover residents should not return to their homes until their street is posted to this live list of cleared streets. To have your gas turned back on call Columbia Gas at 1-800-688-6160. Do not try to turn it on yourself.

9:00 a.m.: Andover Police say the power will be out for at least 24 hours. The Youth Center will be staffed by the Red Cross and helping affected residents.

8:57 a.m.: A list of streets that were evacuated and affected by the fire was released by Columbia Gas.

8:15 a.m.: The National Transportation Safety Board held a news conference before sending its "Go-Team" to Lawrence. Officials will be investigating the design of the pipeline, maintenance being done, and do a review of Columbia Gas.

7:54 a.m.: Andover Police say they are working on a map showing the affected areas and will release it later today.

7:20 a.m.: Spokesperson for Columbia Gas voicemail is still full and cannot accept messages.

7:15 a.m.: Scenes from above the damage in Merrimack Valley


Chopper above damage from yesterday's explosions in Merrimack Valley (NO AUDIO)

Posted by Boston 25 News on Friday, September 14, 2018

6:41 a.m.: Lawrence Police say all roads into Lawrence are closed as house checks continue. They will update when the roads reopen.

6:10 a.m.: 19,000 people are currently without power in the Merrimack Valley and about 8,000 people who cannot return home.

5:55 a.m.: Columbia Gas said they are working to restore service and working "with the appropriate authorities to investigate this incident in order to understand its cause." The statement said they expect it will take a while before gas service is restored:

Columbia Gas crews need to visit each of the 8,600 affected customers to shut off each gas meter and conduct a safety inspection. Additional support is being provided by crews from several affiliated Columbia Gas companies and other utilities who are currently mobilizing to provide assistance.

We expect this will be an extended restoration effort, and we will work tirelessly to restore service to the affected customers.

5:30 a.m.: The North Andover Emergency Management Director, Jeff Coco, said about 100 evacuees spent the night at the high school and there are about 600 homes in North Andover that need to be inspected before people can return home and gas can be restored. There is no timeline for restoration yet.

5:00 a.m.: Andover officials said residents north of Salem Street need to stay out of their homes.

Residents south of the intersection of Route 28 and Salem Street and west of the intersection of Beacon Steet and Reservation Road can return home but should not turn on their gas.

4:35 a.m: A total of 20 teams comprised of a police officer, firefighter and a natural gas technician are going to each of the 1,800 customers affected to make sure their gas meters are off. Many residents were at work and not able to get home to turn off the gas when the explosions happened.

3:58 a.m.: Police are warning residents who turned their gas off at their homes not to attempt to turn it back on themselves. Residents outside of the affected area should call Columbia Gas.

3:35 a.m.: Police in all three towns say they have deployed crews to go house to house to check each residence.

Friday, 12:35 a.m.: Gov. Baker says at least 8,000 homes have been affected by the explosions.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera is asking South Lawrence residents to not come back to their homes until instructed it is safe to do so.

"You shouldn't be in South Lawrence at all," said Mayor Rivera. "Just because you see crews working on your street it doesn't mean it is safe to go back to your home."

Mayor Rivera said evacuated residents should plan to stay out of their homes until at least Friday night.

MEMA officials said at least 60 to 80 fires and three explosions were reported across Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. 25 people in total are currently being treated for injuries related to the explosions and fires.

11:55 p.m.: North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor announced Columbia Gas techs, along with the North Andover Police and North Andover Fire Department will be going from house to house shutting off the gas, saying the process should start in about an hour.

11:30 p.m.: Along with no school, state offices in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover will be closed on Friday, Sept. 24.

11:20 p.m.: Keolis officials said late Thursday night that, due to the continued emergency situation in Andover and Lawrence, Friday's commuter rail service on the Haverhill line will operate only between North Station and Reading Station.

Buses will be available for passengers at Haverhill and Bradford stations taking them to Anderson-Woburn Station on the Lowell line. No train service or bussing alternative option will be available between North Wilmington and Lawrence.

Parking charges are suspended at Anderson-Woburn on Friday, Sept. 14 in anticipation of high ridership levels.

11 p.m.: As of 11 p.m., Holy Family Hospital says it has seen a total of ten patients in its emergency department as a result of the fires. All are currently stable or being discharged.

10:45 p.m.: Lawrence General Hospital says all of its outpatient locations will be closed Friday, Sept. 14 due to the gas fires. This includes Marston Street, Andover Medical Center, Andover/N. Andover YMCA, Pelham Street/Methuen, Doctor's Park, and labs at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.

10:25 p.m.: Lawrence Police have confirmed a man has died from injuries sustained during the explosions in the Merrimack Valley on Thursday.

The DA's office has confirmed the victim has been identified as 18-year-old Leonel Rondon who was sitting in a driveway near 35 Chickering Road in Lawrence when a chimney fell on his car.

10 p.m.: Locked out National Grid gas workers from United Steelworkers Local 12003 and 12012 released a statement:

"United Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012 offers its assistance to help in this very serious, life-threatening situation. Our 1,200 veteran natural gas workers are ready now to offer our experience and technical expertise during this crisis and to help safely restore service to the region."

9:20 p.m.: Columbia Gas issued a statement regarding the gas explosions and fires saying:

Columbia Gas crews are currently responding to reports of multiple fires in Lawrence. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today's incident.

The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community by supporting first responders and completing safety checks on our system and in the surrounding area.

We appreciate the response of local emergency responders and their coordination with our teams.

If a customer smells an odor of natural gas, they should leave the area immediately, move to a safe location and call 911 and our emergency number at 1-800-525-8222.

If a customer smells an odor of natural gas:

Don't turn off gas to your house or to any appliances.
Don't try to find the leak yourself or operate pipeline valves.
Don't light a match or candle, or operate anything that could cause a spark, including home phones or cell phones, lights, appliances, flashlights, power tools, etc.
Don't open the windows and doors in an attempt to ventilate.
We will continue to share information as it becomes available.

9:10 p.m.: Lawrence General Hospital says 10 patients are currently being treated for injuries sustained during the gas line explosions, one is in critical condition and one is in serious condition. Cases range from smoke inhalation to traumatic blast injuries. One patient was transported to another area hospital.

9:00 p.m.: Governor Baker said in a press conference the scene in Lawrence is still active.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera says there is no expectation that people will be able to get back into their homes this evening. Mayor Rivera added that, four hours after the first explosion, the gas line issue still has not been remediated. They have not received the all clear from the gas company.

Mayor Rivera added that the explosions happened south of the river, saying, "If you live south of the river, get out of your house! Go north of the river now, we do not have the all clear from the gas company."

Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield says gas has not been cut off yet and encourages residents to turn off the gas if possible. Chief Mansfield adds he has not spoken to Columbia Gas and described the situation as an "Armageddon".

Boston Police is sending resources to the Lawrence area. Boston 25 News reporter Robert Goulston was told by officials about 40 officers are en route to assist.

8:50 p.m.: There are currently 5-mile delays on I-93 northbound from 495 to Pelham Street and a 4-mile delay along 495 northbound from exits 41 to 46.

8:40 p.m.: Officials are expected to provide updates as to how the gas explosions and fires will affect Friday's morning commute.

8:20 p.m.: State fire officials tell Boston 25 News anchor Blair Miller up to 10 firefighters have been transported with minor injuries from the Merrimack Valley fires.

8:10 p.m.: Lawrence General Hospital says six patients have been admitted for fire-related injuries, two are in critical condition as they continue to prepare for multiple casualties.

The MSPCA-Nevins Farm in Methuen has mobilized an emergency staff and phone number for any animals in affected towns who need shelter as a result of the explosions, fires.  Anyone with an animal in need can either show up tonight at Nevins Farm at 400 Broadway in Methuen or call 978-687-7453.

The MSPCA's Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston is also available for anyone affected who needs free emergency shelter for their pet and/or free emergency medical care should their animal be injured as a result of the fires.  The hospital is located at 350 S. Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain and the phone number above rings directly to the call center should anyone have questions.

8:00 p.m.: Andover, North Andover and Lawrence public schools have canceled classes for Friday after fires and explosions rock the area.

North Andover officials said it is still too early to tell when residents will be allowed back into their homes. Power is still on but is expected to be shut off everywhere in North Andover.

7:50 p.m: Due to planned power shut down, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera is asking all South Lawrence residents to evacuate their homes in addition to the evacuation of all Columbia Gas customers in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

7:45 p.m.: Exits 41 through 45 off ramps on 495 and exit 45 on 93 North and South to River Road are closed, per State Police.

7:40 p.m.: North Andover Public Schools have canceled classes for Friday amid fires and explosions.

7:30 p.m.: State Police say 70 fires, explosions and investigations of gas odors were reported across the Merrimack Valley.

7:20 p.m: Officials have reported all fires in Lawrence have been extinguished as crews are working to shut off electricity in the affected areas. Residents are urged to NOT USE CANDLES if electricity has been shut off. The recommendation is to evacuate the house pending an all clear.

7:15 p.m.: Andover Police have reported all fires in Andover have been put out. Andover officials responded and put out 35 total fires in the town; at peak, 18 fires were burning at the same time.

7:10 p.m.: At least three people have been injured in Andover, including one firefighter and at least two civilians.

7:00 p.m.: At least four people are being treated at Lawrence General Hospital for fire-related injuries following dozens of fires and explosions in the Merrimack Valley.

6:55 p.m.: The Boston Fire Department is responding to mutual aid in Lawrence. 6 engines, 3 ladders, personnel and units are being sent to Lawrence.

6:50 p.m.: State Police have closed all off ramps on I-495 from exits 41 through 45. On ramps will remain open to allow evacuation.

6:40 p.m.: 60 to 100 homes are currently on fire in the Merrimack Valley and multiple injuries have been reported, according to the Methuen Police Chief.

No incidents, fires or explosions have been reported in Methuen.

6:35: p.m.: The commuter rail announced the Haverhill line will operate between North Station and North Wilmington. Trains will be diverted to Anderson/Woburn on the Lowell line where passengers can seek alternative transportation.

6:30 p.m.: An updated map from State Police shows fires and explosions have been confirmed at at least 39 locations but that number will grow.

6:20 p.m.: The office of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released the following incident regarding the fires and explosions:

"Governor Baker is actively monitoring the situations in the Merrimack Valley and is communicating with first responders and public safety officials. The administration urges residents to heed instructions from local officials for important public safety announcements, including evacuations and suspending gas usage."

6:15 p.m.: The FBI Boston office has reported there are no indications that this incident is related to terrorism.

6:10 p.m.: State Police said gas lines in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover are currently being depressurized by Columbia Gas but will take some time.

Residents in the affected areas who have service from Columbia Gas should evacuate their homes immediately if they have not already done so.

6:00 p.m.: MEMA staff are assisting in responding to these fires and explosions. Officials said the state's fire mobilization plan has been activated and four structural task forces have been activated from local fire districts.

Merrimack College has just evacuated their campus.

5:50 p.m.:

The Lawrence Mayor's office has confirmed these explosions and subsequent fires have been caused by over pressurized gas valves.

5:45 p.m: 

State Police outlined the fires and explosions reported along the areas affected.

Multiple New Hampshire and Massachusetts agencies are assisting in this response.

5:35 p.m:

State Police officials are evacuating residents in Andover to the senior center at 30 Whittier Court and North Andover residents are being evacuated to the middle school at 495 Main Street.

Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque confirms they are getting calls for 20 to 30 active fires in town.

5:30 p.m.:

Officials at the scene in Lawrence have reported additional explosions in neighboring Byfield and Boxboro.

Authorities have reported 20 to 25 explosions in Lawrence and North Andover.

State Police have confirmed response to 17 separate addresses for fire, explosion, or investigation in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Lawrence Police confirm at least two serious injuries have been reported.

According to Lawrence Police Chief at least one house has been leveled by an explosion in Lawrence.

The Red Cross is responding to multiple fires in Lawrence and Andover.

North Andover Police reported multiple house fires at homes with gas service. Anyone with gas service to their house or business is asked to exit the building until further notice.

5:15 p.m.: 

The Lawrence Chief of Police tells Boston 25 News reporter Jessica Reyes it looks like the explosions were triggered by a gas issue and they are looking into potential gas surge.

5:00 p.m.:

State Police suspect the fires were caused by a multiple gas explosions.

North Andover Board of Selectman tells Boston 25 News they are trying to evacuate parts of the town.

No injuries have been reported yet.

Lawrence General says it is activating its emergency response plan.

Eversource has outlined the steps needed to ensure an effective recovery.

This is a breaking news story. Stay with Boston 25 News for more updates as they become available. 


Columbia Gas addressing the media after Gov. Baker announced Eversource is taking over recovery effort.

Posted by Boston 25 News on Friday, September 14, 2018

Columbia Gas addressing the media after Gov. Baker announced Eversource is taking over recovery effort.

Posted by Boston 25 News on Friday, September 14, 2018

MORE: Costs adding up for Merrimack Valley residents following gas explosions

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