Temporary trailers for gas victims being removed as restoration nears completion

Temporary trailers for gas victims being removed as restoration nears completion

LAWRENCE, Mass. — About 95 percent of residential meters in the Merrimack Valley have gas service restored. Meanwhile, the same percentage of businesses have gas back on. Around $70 million in claims have been paid out and Columbia Gas hopes to get the gas back on for homes and businesses by mid-December.

As the gas restoration process continues in the Merrimack Valley, temporary housing trailers are being removed from several locations in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

For nearly three months, these temporary trailers have been home to hundreds of families, but with most of the service restored, the process of moving them out is beginning. From here, the trailers will head to California to house people left homeless by the wildfires that ravaged parts of the state.

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Even though most in the Merrimack Valley had their service restored, lawmakers like Niki Tsongas are still concerned that everyone will have heat and hot water back by the December 16 deadline Columbia Gas has promised.

As of Monday, Columbia Gas says 371 families - or about 1,250 people in all - are still in temporary housing. That's down from 2,272 families, totaling about 8,000 people who initially moved into the trailers and hotel rooms the gas company provided.

"It's been cold. It's been hard, very hard. Depression is starting to sink in now."

Deborah Cronin lives on Bailey Street in South Lawrence and is one of the few left still waiting to have gas service restored. She opted to stay in her home rather than move into temporary housing. Despite everything she's been promised, she says it's hard to believe anything at this point, after nearly three long months in the cold.

"To see other people around you get it is frustrating. Enough is enough," said Cronin.

While many trailers are still on the South Common, the process of moving them began last Thursday and continues each day.

Mayor Dan Rivera says it's just the beginning of the process, however, and that the ones that people are still staying in will remain in Lawrence for as long as they need until their gas is restored.