"This is designed to let everybody have a fair chance, so the lines aren't too oppressive and that we can get through this," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.
Only a quarter of the city's gas stations were open, the mayor said. Some were closed because they were out of power, others because they can't get fuel from terminals and storage tanks that can't unload their cargo.
Near a still-closed auto tunnel linking Manhattan and Brooklyn early Friday, cab and delivery truck drivers — exempt from the rationing system — eyed with dismay a line of closed gas stations.
"Hey, when's the gas coming?" one driver hollered, to honking horns. "Tomorrow, we hope," the attendant replied, shrugging his shoulders.
The nor'easter brought gusting winds, rain and snow on Wednesday and early Thursday before it moved on. Snow blanketed several states from New York to New England and stymied recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy as additional storm-weakened trees snapped and more power lines came down.
Thousands of utility customers, mostly in New York and New Jersey, have been left waiting for their electricity to come back on — and some are losing patience, demanding investigations of utilities they say aren't working fast enough.
An angry Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the calls for an investigation Thursday, ripping the utilities as unprepared and badly managed.