Refueling relief efforts

Rossee Oil takes team to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria –

After Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico in September, it became apparent that one of the most urgent needs was getting fuel distributed across the island. The governor of Puerto Rico said there were just not enough trucks to get fuel out to the devastated areas.

One local company heeded this call and sprang into action, because, after more than 70 years in business, Rossee Oil in Eatonton knows how to run fuel.

Cooper Rainey, who also owns The Clothing Depot in Eatonton and Greensboro, is the fifth generation to work in the family’s fuel business. Currently, he and his father, Bill Rainey, are assisting their team of drivers in relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Rossee Oil’s response team is part of the Mission Critical Team at Foster Fuels, based in Virginia.

“Foster has become FEMA’s right hand man when it comes to emergency fueling needs,” says Rainey. “We’re good friends with Foster. They’ve been in business 96 years, since 1921, and we’ve been in business since 1945, so we’ve been together in the industry a long time.”

Rossee Oil began working with Foster’s Mission Critical Team not long after Hurricane Katrina. They first sent teams to Houston after Hurricane Gustav in 2008, and have continued to join efforts after major storms including Sandy, Matthew, and most recently, Harvey, Irma and now, Maria.

Their team is made up of drivers from Rossee Oil locations in Eatonton, Sandersville, Moultrie, Wrightsville, and Swainsboro who are able to assemble quickly during emergencies and be dispatched within 18-24 hours anywhere in the U.S. For Maria, the team sent eight trucks to ports in Florida for transport to Puerto Rico. Then, the team of eight flew together to the island at the beginning of October.

“We’ve got such an amazing group of guys who are willing to just drop everything and go wherever they’re needed to help people for months at a time,” says Rainey.

Rainey says once the team arrives in affected areas, they set up a base camp with their tankers and beginning establishing logistics for the smaller trucks that are used to go out on missions. These missions may include filling generators at hospitals, FEMA staging sites, and other critical institutions, or supplying fuel for law enforcement, fire, EMS, utility companies, or private businesses. He says they coordinate efforts with both local and federal government agencies.

“We’re there to support the front lines,” says Rainey. “You can’t get back on your feet without fuel.”As of press time, nearly 80 percent of the island was still without power. Maria was the strongest storm to hit the U.S. Territory in decades. Rainey says the devastation there is unlike anything he has seen so far. The island’s power grid, which was already weakened by Hurricane Irma just two weeks prior, was completely shut down once Maria made landfall on Sept. 20. Rainey says that weeks later, power lines were still scattered, cell towers were down, buildings were destroyed, and the citizens are still facing long lines for food, water, and fuel.

He says the work is hard, but rewarding.

“You know, some people have a religious calling, and I guess this is sort of like that,” says Rainey. “When you have the capability to go and help people in times of need, you are called to do that and the rewards are unbelievable.”

Rainey says it is still difficult to get items shipped in to the island. Several brand lines from The Clothing Depot have donated items, but Rainey says the best way to help the citizens of Puerto Rico is to get more feet on the ground there. He says their group is establishing contacts that might help them make a mission trip back to the island once power is restored.

Rainey predicted the crew would be on the ground in Puerto Rico for 60 to 90 days.

Back home, his wife, Marie, and their two children, Will, 8, and Lilly Kent, 7, are holding out hope that their dad will be home for Christmas.

To see updates on the team’s progress in Puerto Rico, find Rossee Oil on Facebook.






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