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Dozens of gas explosions in Lawrence, North Andover, Andover; whole neighborhoods evacuated

UPDATE: One dead, ten injured.

WCVB has the latest on multiple explosions this afternoon.

By 5:45 p.m., there were so many explosions that the Lawrence Fire Department knew of at least a dozen houses on fire they had not even been able to get to, Kilonum reports.

The Andover Fire Department reports that a total of 35 fires erupted just in that town - at one point, 18 were burning at the same time.

Shortly after 6 p.m. State Police urged anybody living or working in the 51,000 homes and businesses served by Columbia Gas to leave immediately.

At 7:10 p.m., State Police reported that National Grid - which provides electricity but not gas in the area - would be shutting off power.

WCVB reports:

Just today, Columbia Gas, which serves the Merrimack Valley, announced a major gas-main replacement project, including stretches in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

The MBTA is stopping Haverhill Line trains in Woburn due to the explosions in Andover. Exits off I-495 into Lawrence are shut; State Police are letting people in Lawrence and Andover get onto 495 to evacuate.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Boston Fire reported it was sending several companies of firefighters to the area. Boston Police will send several officers to help patrol the area overnight.

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Comments

Why hasn’t the Governor activated the National Guard? This is nuts.

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Voting closed 19

They aren't firefighters and while some may work for the gas company, it isn't likely they are all trained in such things.

Sounds like MSP and the local PD have got the evacuation.

Can you explain what else needs to be done? They might yet need to help with the shelter situation, but that's all I can think of. Does the Red Cross need that kind of help?

Probably better to wait until we see how long this goes on - they may yet be needed to allow the cops to get some sleep.

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Voting closed 31

The National Guard has firefighting units.

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The 179th and 180th are stationed at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod.

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Explain how they will magically appear in Lawrence with all their equipment when they are stationed on the Cape.

Several hours to muster
Several hours to drive

Not going to happen. They are there for things like the Malden Mills disaster.

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Remember when Buffalo got that gigantic storm back in 2014 or 2015? I can't quite pin it down. MassDOT Highway District 5 sent a fleet of vehicles, and if I'm not mistaken, crew, to help out with plowing and snow removal operations.

Now, I'm not saying the Nat'l Guard should have been there. I don't know that and I'm certainly not qualified to make that call. However, to the possible hypothetical scenario of them actually getting there? Part of me is skeptical that if D5 could have sent a fleet of equipment 7 or 8 hours away to Buffalo, the Nat'l Guard on the Cape could do what would likely be a couple of hour trip away.

If there's another reason they couldn't get their besides just being not in the most optimal place, compared to nearby towns in MA and NH, for example, I'm all ears. But this one I have a hard time believing on face value. There were up to some 70 fires occurring simultaneous yesterday, and at the time I don't think it was certain that that was the highest it was going to get.

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The NG isn't a fire department - this is people who work other jobs, sometimes a hundred miles away. It takes time for them to get everyone to get their equipment and then get it up and going.

Then it takes time to get there. 93 was closed and backed up through Boston. 495 was also closed. Ever come home from the cape on a summer Saturday? Multiply by 3.

By the time they get there, what do they do? It is all over. And then everyone would be mad at the Governor for misusing resources.

Regular nearby units might help with logistics of evacuating and securing the area, but mustering a special unit is for massive conflagrations - like the Malden Mills fire is a good example. Things that are days in the happening like they are in North Carolina or Buffalo are what the NG is good for. Not short term emergencies.

They need some lead time to deploy.

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Not short term emergencies.

I'm not certain that it looked like it was going to be short term at the time, but that seems to be pretty compelling to me and more than simply about the geography part of the equation. Thanks for clarifying.

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Coming out of Au Bon Pain on Portland Street. Made me wonder for a second what a day in the life of a governor must be like. A sudden catastrophe like this kinda answers that question.

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Pretty sure most days are a lot like the days of any other person with a job.

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I think they were saying that in a position like that, one minute you're getting lunch, the next thing you have a devastating catastrophe on your hands that you need to manage. That's not necessarily typical for most people. Certainly isn't the case for me.

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10-15 years ago there was a chunk of lexington evacuated (before any explosions happened thankfully) due to someone hooking up high pressure gas to a low pressure gas line.

edit: Nov 2005, and there was one house explosion and destruction

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Too late or too early?

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This is stuff nightmares are made of. I'm not afraid of much but natural gas can be very scary.

Imagine, just everything exploding with a spark..

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Thank goodness it didn't happen in 2016 when we had a drought going on.

Or on a dry day with high winds, for that matter.

That would have been very bad.

This is why fire departments have mutual aid compacts - every community in the area is probably helping out here.

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My Mom was evacuated from her neighborhood in south Lawrence. luckily her neighbors helped her turn off the gas and electricity at her house

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Glad your mom got out ok and that her neighbors helped her. I can't imagine how scary it must have been for her and everyone in the area.

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Voting closed 39

I have several friends in the area, thankfully they also were able to evacuate. The latest news says there were 70 explosions - I can only imagine how hard the first responders must be working from the impacted towns and surrounding areas

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I'm glad your mom got out and a neighbor helped shut off her gas.

If you grew up or live in an earthquake prone area, you probably have learned how to do this. Otherwise, it is a pretty simple thing and something that people who live in houses connected to natural gas should know how to do (like your mom's neighbors did):

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There have been conflicting reports on social media about this, wondering if anyone local has insight. I'm well aware that National Grid has been dealing with a worker lockout over union issues for a few months (my uncle is a non-union admin there and has been being forced to work 50+ hour weeks all summer). Is Columbia Gas part of the same union, and are they also using "replacement" workers during the strike?

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Your uncle wasn’t forced to work he just doesn’t have the balls to stand up to the company like the rest of the scabs out there crossing the line

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Idk whether they are specifically National Grid workers, but they did came out and say they are more than willing to volunteer to help for this situation,

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they are not part of the same union, therefor they are working..... so, is it the experience union people the ones the did this?!

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I prefer an oil furnace and a clean coal stove. Gas is too risky, not just the explosions but the annual reports of carbon monoxide deaths. My sympathy to the young man who died and those injured. It will be interesting to see what the FBI comes up with.

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Oil also creates a lot more pollution that harms your neighbors.

The real problem: we need better ways without fossil fuel combustion. The climate keeps warming, and maybe we wont need so much heat soon.

But warm water is slowing the jet stream, so the winter warm up might not come for a while.

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I pay ~80/mo for gas heat in the winter. $20/mo in the summer for cooking and hot water. (I think I use 1 therm, but get the minimum charge anyways)

When I lived in a place with Oil Heat. Was $750 bucks to fill my tank, and often we need a half fill by February.

Far cheaper to heat with gas, and so much more economical.

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I receive Joe Kennedy's "Citizen's Energy" 1-800-JOE-FOR-OIL. Steep discount. No income or citizenship verification required. Plus Joe and current wife make about $600,000 each at the non-profit. Win/Win. I hope the situation in Venezuela stabilizes because Hugo Chavez and Citgo were giving us most of the oil.

I have plenty of smoke and CO detectors, the Red Cross will come in and install both. Lithium battery lasts ten years. Everyone should call. Two nice Indian (from India) students volunteered to install at my house, wouldn't take a dime. 1-800-746-3511. God Bless them. Somehow, Delta Airlines funds the program, probably a tax write-off. https://www.redcross.org/local/massachusetts/about-us/our-work/home-fire...

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After decades of paying for oil heat, my parents caved to the temptation that natural gas is cheaper. Their home was converted from oil furnace to gas furnace several years ago. From what I learned, gas saved them hundreds of dollars per year in heat compared to oil. Money talks, unfortunately.

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Carbon monoxide is the result of burning *any* fossil fuel for heat. Your oil furnace and coal stove (no matter how "clean") produces carbon monoxide and needs to be properly vented or you'll die from carbon monoxide. Buy a monitor.

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and turn it over to the NTSB. Waste of resources and unnecessary paranoia to even have the FBI inocolved at all.

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Until the guys who fill your tank over fill it and you have a superfund site on your hands that they don't want to pay for.

All fossil fuels generate CO and all have dirty downsides.

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I'm not even going to touch your "gas is risky" statement, so let me call you out on "clean coal stove".
How exactly are you capturing all the byproducts of whatever it is you think you're burning?

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Especially one that goes undetected for months or even years. Then you'll find out how much better oil heat is for you.

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This sounds exactly like what happened in East Boston in 1983:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Boston_gas_surge

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