NORTH ANDOVER (WBZ-AM) -- Workers in North Andover and Andover are continuing the process of turning on gas services in those communities Monday, with around 500 crew members hitting the streets.
Gov. Charlie Baker was also back in the Merrimack Valley Monday morning. He was at Northern Essex Community College being briefed on the progress in getting displaced residents back in their homes and on making permanent repairs to the damaged natural gas system.
Those repairs could take weeks, as crews will have to replace some 48 miles of damaged piping.
As people return to their houses, officials reminded residents not to turn on their gas meters by themselves--and to call in professionals to do the job.
Now that more than 8,000 homes evacuated last week now have their power back and inspections have been done, most residents are back home. One Lawrence resident, Paul, was one of those waiting for power. Even though the lights were out and the gas was off, he told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker he decided to stay in his home.
"I stayed in my house ... because it's my wife's favorite house," he said. "So I stayed there, hoping the lights would come back on ... I was so happy I could see again."
His lights came back on early Sunday morning, but he's not sure when he'll get gas back.
There are still some homes that haven't been reoccupied--those damaged by explosions or fire. MEMA's Chris Besse said officials are still trying to provide help to those who couldn't return home yet.
"We're working closely with the city officials both in Lawrence and figuring out in Andover and North Andover what that population is and exactly where they are and what their needs might be," he said. "Many of them may be staying with friends and family, but also, we're figuring out what other housing options may be available. We're working with some of the city housing groups and seeing what they may be able to do to assist."
Besse said building inspectors were still working through the damaged buildings.
"The original information we had was that overall, there was sort of fires or incidents in the range of 60 to 80 homes, but of that, some of those may be of very minor damage, and obviously, we've seen some are more heavily damaged," Besse said. "We're still working through that, and the local building inspectors are still looking at those, and figuring out which ones they can go into and not."
A claims center opened at the Lawrence High School Learning Center, and MEMA has a recovery resource center at the Arlington Middle School.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker (@radiobenparker) reports