LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) - “It was traumatic,” says Michelle Russell, thinking back on the gas explosions that rocked her Lawrence neighborhood last year. Russell still recalls the confusion and chaos from that day with vivid detail.

“All of a sudden [first responders] come and they tell us, ‘You need to evacuate immediately,'” she said, recalling the events recently in her living room. “I wasn’t too scared until I realized the magnitude of it.”

Overpressurization in the gas lines caused explosions that killed one person, destroyed at least five homes and damaged many others. While crews worked to shut off the gas and make sure homes were safe, Michelle and her wife spent three days at a relatives’ home in New Hampshire, unsure about what was happening back in their neighborhood.

“I said, ‘I could go home [to] my house being in a pile of rubble,” she said.

Michelle and her wife were lucky. Their home was safe, but it was just the beginning of the recovery effort. Columbia Gas worked to replace more than 40 miles of underground pipeline in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, including on Michelle’s street, where they ran the new line up to her house and installed a new gas meter.

“They broke their jackhammer on my property because of all the ledge underneath,” Michelle said.

She says Columbia Gas repaired the damage done to her lawn, but not her walkway, which they had to tear up to get to the gas lines. According to Michelle, they promised the repairs would be made by last spring.

“Many, many weeks I was calling them,” she says. “And they keep saying they’re gonna squeeze me in.”

But many weeks turned into many months – and no repairs. So Michelle reached out to Solve It 7.

We called Columbia Gas, who assured us Michelle’s home was still on their list for repairs. So we decided to call the paving contractor directly. According to Michelle, they came out the very same day to take some measurements. A week later, they tore up the old walkway and replaced it with fresh asphalt.

“Solve It 7 helped us out tremendously,” says Michelle. “We would never be standing here now if it wasn’t for Solve It 7.”

Columbia Gas is currently re-inspecting service lines at some homes. To find out if your home is on that list, click here.

If you have a problem you can’t seem to solve on your own? Give us a call at 617-367-7777 or send an email to

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