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Thousands Still Without Heat In Massachusetts, More Than A Month After Gas Explosions

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now to Massachusetts where thousands of people north of Boston are still without heat six weeks after explosions and fires rocked their communities. The gas company at fault says it will miss its self-imposed deadline to fully restore service to the three communities. From member station WGBH, Mark Herz reports.

MARK HERZ, BYLINE: Columbia Gas repeatedly promised to have more than 8,000 affected customers restored by November 19. To date, they've restored a bit over 1,000. The company has consistently fallen short of its own goals for getting individual customers ready to be back online. It announced it will take until as late as December 16 to get people back in their homes with heat and hot water. Joe Albanese is a former Navy engineer appointed by the governor of Massachusetts to lead the massive restoration effort.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE ALBANESE: As temperatures drop, we recognize there's an incredible sense of urgency to get people back into their homes with heat and hot water as soon as possible. We are racing against the winter.

HERZ: Pablo Vegas of Columbia Gas said the company recognizes their customers are suffering.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PABLO VEGAS: We will personally contact all customers who are scheduled to not have their service restored by November 19 and provide offers of resources to help them in whatever they need.

VEGAS: In the community of North Andover, Teresa Krauss was making her third move with her family in more than six weeks from two distant hotel rooms to one of 60 small campers set up in a neighborhood ballfield. She started listening to the press conference where the new deadline was announced but stopped. She said she doesn't trust the December date.

TERESA KRAUSS: I don't. That's probably why I didn't really finish listening to whatever they were saying today. But, yeah, no, I don't at all.

HERZ: Krauss said she doesn't know what kind of Thanksgiving she'll be having with a stove the size of a bread basket. Overnight temperatures in the area are expected to be in the '30s next week. For NPR News, I'm Mark Herz in Boston.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BLACKSHAW'S "HER SMOKE ROSE UP FOREVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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