Nearly three dozen Unitil gas service technicians and other workers were treated to a free barbecue dinner at Shane’s Texas Pit on Sunday night as a way for restaurant owner Shane Pine to thank them for canvassing Hampton Beach to look for potentially damaged natural gas equipment following major coastal flooding over the weekend.
When he heard that the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce was reaching out to local businesses that might be willing to help those assisting with the flood response, Pine wasted no time signing up.
“I was like, ‘Whatever you guys need me to do, I’m in.’ I just wanted to do my part,” he said. “I figured we’d get them fed, happy, warm and cheery.”
For the Unitil employees who showed up for dinner after a busy day of inspections that ended with intense snow squalls, the free meal at the Hampton restaurant was the highlight of their day and a kind gesture that they appreciated.
“We’re very grateful for it,” said gas technician Sean McNiff.
Bobby Pettigrew, also a technician, described the meal as a “morale booster,” adding, “It’s been a long day and it got colder as the day went on, so it’s nice to get a hot meal.”
Gas technician Eric Hawkins shared a similar sentiment. “It’s a nice break to be able to get out of the weather and have somebody offer up a meal. It’s very unusual,” he said.
Pine’s generous offer to Unitil’s crews came just one day after one of his other restaurants, the Community Oven, donated 20 pizzas to first responders who assisted at the scene of a massive oil tanker fire in Epping.
“My staff has been at this for a long time and we just jump when we need to,” he said.
Hector Cespedes, the head chef at Shane’s Texas Pit, experienced his own flooding problems at home during Saturday’s storm. “It was the worst, by far,” he said of the flooding, but he added that he was happy to prepare the free meals for the gas technicians.
Unitil began proactively inspecting individual natural gas meters and services in the Hampton Beach area following Saturday’s flooding event after receiving reports of some submerged gas service meters and regulators within the flooded area. While Unitil’s gas system itself wasn’t directly impacted by the flooding, gas service technicians performed door-to-door inspections to check meters and regulators for possible water infiltration. Equipment that was found to be damaged by the floodwaters was shut off and replaced.
Unitil dispatched its mobile emergency operations center to Hampton Beach to help coordinate its response to the flooding event, which included the inspection of more than 3,100 meters and 2,400 services. Of those, the vast majority were found to be undamaged, with only approximately 100 services disconnected for repairs following the check.
The inspection and replacement work was largely completed today and normal operations was resumed. Some individual customers will require relights to services once internal appliances damaged by the flooding have been repaired by a third party. Customers who find notifications on their property regarding a shutoff are urged to call Unitil customer service at 1-888-301-7700 once any internal repairs needed are completed in order to get service restored.
“We’d like to sincerely thank Shane’s Texas Pit for their hospitality and hot meal after a long, cold day of going door-to-door checking homes and businesses,” Unitil External Affairs Director Alec O’Meara said. “Additionally, we thank the Hampton Police Department for allowing the use of their parking lot to set up our mobile operations center and all customers for working with us as we did these proactive inspections.”
Natural gas leaks are usually recognized by smell, sight or sound. A customer may notice an odor of rotten eggs, hear hissing or roaring sounds, or see dead or dying vegetation. Do not use a lighter, mobile devices switch on/off appliances, light fixtures or even a flashlight in any area where you smell gas. These items can produce sparks that might ignite the gas and cause an explosion. Again, if you suspect a natural gas leak, immediately move to a safe environment and call 911.
Front Photo: Unitil gas service technician Scott Murray inspects a gas meter during a mass inspection of equipment at Hampton Beach in the wake of major coastal flooding over the weekend.
Top Right Photo: Unitil gas service technician Jake McCurdy was among the Unitil employees who enjoyed a free meal offered by Shane's Texas Pit in Hampton on Sunday night.