(Facebook.com/Columbia Gas of Massachusetts)
LAWRENCE (WBZ-AM) -- The effort to return to normalcy continues in the Merrimack Valley in the wake of this fall's gas explosions--and in Lawrence, they're getting closer to that goal.
The target date for full restoration of service by Columbia Gas is December 16. The company now says they've re-lit 97 percent of residential meters in the city.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the work of restoring gas service to everyone is nearly complete.
"There are a few hundred dwellings that haven't been turned on yet, haven't had their meters turned on--but they're all self-mitigators for the most part," he said.
In Andover, the town says a total of 69 homes remain without service, and just over 200 residential customers total are without gas in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover.
There are only about 20 businesses in the Merrimack Valley that still need to get their gas service back. Columbia Gas said that more than 960 claims were filed by businesses in the region, with over $16 million in paid claims.
Eli Haddad, whose breakfast place on Merrimack Street in Lawrence was only out for about a week, considers himself lucky.
"It's been very good, we've been very fortunate," he said. "It was very scary, and then afterwards, it's been non-stop."
Eli's benefited from having gas service--and also from having a lot of workers in the area. As for meeting a December 16 target date for everyone to be back?
"I would say, if they meet that deadline and get everybody in their homes before Christmas? That would be a blessing," he said.
Baker praised those who have had to deal with the aftermath of the gas explosions.
"The people in that region, and I've said this many times, have been incredibly resilient and patient about the disruption that this tragedy created for all of them over the course of the fall," he said.
Of the more than 2,200 families that required temporary housing in the three communities, about 140 remain.
WBZ NewsRadio's Ben Parker (@radiobenparker) reports