Looking down Jackson Street towards Knox Street fire crews from Lawrence and Methuen assess a massive gas leak apparently caused by construction at the intersection. The odor of natural gas could be detected up to a half-mile away. 

LAWRENCE — Residents in the neighborhood affected by the Knox Street gas leak are being asked to avoid the area for a few hours long as crews continue to work to cut off gas flow to the area.

The gas leak in Lawrence near the Methuen line forced the evacuation of a number of homes around midday Thursday.

A road construction crew hit an 8-inch gas line on Knox Street, according to Lawrence fire Deputy Chief John McInnis. 

Lawrence fire crews were at the scene, as were several ambulances. Columbia Gas crews located the valve to shut off the gas line shortly after 5 p.m.

With residents unable to access their homes and power cut off to several blocks as temperatures soar over 90 degrees, officials opened the Lawrence Senior Center as a cooling center for the time being.

Police have blocked off a several-block radius of Jackson Street, spanning from Swan Street on the Methuen line to Berkeley Street in Lawrence. Access to Jackson Street via crossroads from Prospect Street has been blocked off as well, including Custer, Logan and Sheridan streets.

Lawrence police Chief Roy Vasque said that even though the gas leak has been stopped, it will still be several hours before people are allowed to return to their homes. Officials said gas levels will need to be checked in each building in the neighborhood.

Two blocks from the scene where crews were working, the rush of escaping gas could be heard.

There was a strong odor of gas in the area. Three city blocks were evacuated and electricity was shut off in a four-block area, McInnis said. 

The biggest concern right now is keeping the gas away from ignition sources, McInnis said. Firefighters are also worried about gas getting into sewer lines and then seeping into homes.

It is unclear at this point how many homes or residents were involved in the evacuation. Residents were being evacuated to Swan Street in Methuen.

McInnis said residents would not be allowed to return to their homes until the gas levels were checked in each building. 

Electricity also appeared to be shut off at several businesses on Jackson Street shortly before 1 p.m. The portion of Jackson Street near Knox Street was closed.

Electricity was also shut off to 931 homes in Methuen as a precaution.

One man collapsed in his driveway clutching his side after leaving his house on Knox Street. He was taken away by ambulance.

Knox Street resident Mbuyi Cimanga walked away from his house with just a messenger bag, silver case and a water bottle. 

He said he was “very nervous.”

”I don’t know what is going on, what is going to happen,“ he said. 

Reporter Paul Tennant contributed to this story.

Follow Lisa Kashinsky on Twitter @lisakashinsky. 


RYAN HUTTON/Staff photo. Fire crews hook hoses up to nearby fire hydrants on Jackson Street as gas contiunes to rus out of a ruptured 8-inch ine at the intersections of Jackson and Knox in the background. Aug. 16, 2018


Officials discuss a response as gas continues to rush out of a ruptured 8-inch line at the intersections of Jackson and Knox streets in the background.