New Yorkers Ranuel Somorin and wife Marlia waited eight hours on Saturday at the Queens National Guard Armory in Jamaica for 20 free gallons of gasoline dished out by soldiers who were playing dual roles -- as crowd controllers and gas-station attendants -- under a federal emergency program to give away 10-gallon rations of gasoline per person while the gas-supply chain in the region recovers from Superstorm Sandy.
“I’ve been here since 10 this morning,” said Ranuel, a Guyanese-American resident of Jamaica who was lugging two five-gallon plastic gas canisters while his wife pulled a laundry basket with a borderline-antique metal gas can. “It’s for our generator. The transformer near our house burned -- no electricity, no heat, and we don’t know when the power will come back.”
Even after emergency-management officials announced they were stopping the giveaway program, giving precedence to emergency-response vehicles, the message had not yet arrived among the thousands of people descending on the armory, and the National Guard continued to give out gas to anyone who had already spent much of the day in line.
The importance of gasoline was evidenced across the storm-ravaged tristate area on Saturday afternoon as countless motorists scoured the city, burning fuel while looking for fuel to burn.
“That truck holds 5,000 gallons,” said a National Guardsman, who didn’t want his name used because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press, as he pointed to an Army tanker. “We got a 3,000 and an 8,000 -- 16,000 gallons [in all].”
Considering the sheer number of people waiting for their gasoline fix, that 16,000 gallons would surely run out before Sunday morning unless more fuel arrived.
Near the armory, a row of about 20 cars were lined up at a gas station that had a tanker parked nearby.
“They just dumped 2,000 gallons [into the station’s tank], but they don’t know it’s diesel,” said Joe Mancero, who was filling his midsize private passenger bus. A woman got out of one of the waiting cars and walked over to the station manager. After a brief exchange, she waved toward the other cars: No gas.