PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The parking lot of a Wawa convenience store here was transformed into a sea of red gasoline cans on Saturday as hundreds of residents waited for hours in hopes of powering generators and cars after the city, about 30 miles northwest of Fort Myers, was battered by Hurricane Ian.
The store, one of only a few purveyors of gas that had reopened since Wednesday’s storm, corralled cars into a line that stretched for more than a mile along a suburban road. One woman was pushing her van, which appeared to have run out of gas, as the line inched forward. Hundreds more people arrived carrying empty gas cans or pushing them in wheelbarrows.
“This is the furthest I’ve gotten,” said Mark Eidys, who had waited in his truck for hours on two other days but had to leave before ever reaching the pumps. On Saturday, he tried a new strategy: joining the walk-up line and bringing a lawn chair, as well as three gas cans.
As the line grew longer under the beating sun, several people fumed that much of the national attention appeared to be focused on wealthier areas like Naples or Cape Coral.
One man at the very end of the line, who declined to give his name, said he had not seen any power company workers in his neighborhood and wondered aloud why federal aid had not arrived to help him. He said he needed gas to buy food, but he grew frustrated when he learned that the Wawa was accepting only cash.
At the front of the line was Gary Jaworski, who said he had waited for four hours, beginning at 7 a.m., to fill up four cans of gas. He said that although he fully supported Gov. Ron DeSantis, he was frustrated at what he viewed as a broken promise by the governor — that gas stations would be able to quickly reopen after the storm.
“Where’s all the fuel?” he asked. “Every gas station or filling station was to have a generator prepared to go at all times.”
In a news conference on Saturday, Mr. DeSantis said 1.6 million gallons of fuel had been moved to southwest Florida, but he acknowledged that some stations “may not have the electricity to operate their pumps.”
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