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Gas giveaway pumps up South Florida drivers

Lines at the pump haven't been this long since the mid '70s...

Lines at the pump haven't been this long since the mid '70s, when people forked over a fortune for a tank of gas. Now they're waiting to get it for free.

About 7,000 motorists lined up at three Shell gas stations in Miami-Dade and Broward throughout the day Friday, some waiting five hours for their shot at $9.96 worth of free fuel, a car wash and a Popsicle.

The gas giveaway began at 6 a.m. in Carol City, where the half-mile-long line wrapped around the block. In the afternoon, the free fuel flowed into the afternoon at Shell stations in Hollywood and Hialeah.

How much gas commuters got depended on the octane they chose.

Some, like Antonio Day, 20, arrived before sunrise at the 16701 NW 27th Ave. Shell station to get his 5 1/2 gallons.

``If they want to give away some free gas, I'll be there,'' said Day, who drove to the station at 5:30 a.m. after working all night at Sam's Club. He spent most of his four-hour wait sleeping on the back of his beige Dodge Stratus.

Heather Finn and her 6-year-old son Hunter practiced spelling during their two-hour wait.

``It was absolutely worth it because I was practically out of gas,'' said Finn, who commutes daily from Aventura to Delray Beach. ``Plus it gave me a little extra time to be with my son.''

Shannon McMillon, 35, sat in line 2 1/2 hours for the free fuel.

``When you hear about something like free gas, you can't turn it down,'' McMillon said. For the most part, he said, the event went smoothly. ``Though there was some cutting in line. But this is Miami, so you expect people to get rowdy.''

Radio station Power 96 (WPOW 96.5 FM) sponsored the promotional giveaway, handing out free T-shirts, CDs, soft drinks and 25,000 gallons of gas to drivers fed up with the ever-increasing prices at the pump -- in the range of $1.60 to $1.90 a gallon, nearly a 30 percent increase over last year.

``Gas prices are through the roof and the average Joe just doesn't have the cash to fill up his tank every other day,'' said a Power 96 radio personality known as Mobile Mike. ``It's been crazy.''

The Florida Highway Patrol was even called in at one point to help keep people from obstructing Opa-locka's 27th Avenue.

But they didn't get any free gas for their work.