But nearly as soon as the plans were announced, they began to unravel.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had to quickly alter a plan to have the military deliver free fuel after residents swarmed the first such depot in Queens. The fuel that the military is providing is now being used exclusively for emergency responders.
“We have asked the general public to no longer come to these distribution centers,” said Eric Durr, the director of public affairs for the New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said he had decided against using the military to provide fuel, fearing the kind of chaos that unfolded in New York.
But his plan to limit fill-ups to every other day by license plate number had New Jersey drivers confused and upset.
At an Exxon station in Bayonne, N.J., police officers and people waiting in line for gasoline argued over the meaning of Mr. Christie’s order regarding gas rationing.
“It’s an executive order from the governor’s office,” said Drew Niekrasz, the Bayonne deputy police chief. “We have to follow it. Even though it makes no sense.”
Janet Tysh, a Bayonne resident, was waiting in line for fuel for her generator and had planned to get gas for her car on Sunday. When she asked a police officer to explain the new policy, he pulled the governor’s order from his pocket.
“What do you mean?” said Ms. Tysh, 61, who is retired. “Look at all these cars.”
Mr. Christie defended his decision to ration gasoline at an afternoon briefing, saying that he was hesitant to issue the order but after seeing the lines across the state on Friday, he felt he had no choice.
He said he could not estimate how long the rationing system will have to remain in place.
For New Jersey, he said, the biggest problem for the state’s gas stations was power even more than supply at this point.
He explained that in northern New Jersey, many stations were not able to be connected to generators, something the governor said he was unaware of until this storm hit.
“In New Jersey, no one had a complete list of all the gas stations,” Mr. Christie said. “You can bet we are going to have one now.”
Mr. Cuomo announced on Saturday morning that fuel trucks would be deployed in four locations around New York City to distribute up to 10 gallons to each motorist.
“Do not panic,” Mr. Cuomo urged at a briefing outside a National Guard armory in Manhattan on Saturday. “We did have a shortage in fuel delivery. That situation has been remedied.”
Despite his pleas, not long after his announcement, people swarmed the Queens location.
Despite assurances that millions of gallons of gas would be flowing into the region imminently, the sense of crisis among residents has seemingly only grown.
Mr. Cuomo said that with the city’s port operating again, the crisis should pass soon, with 28 million gallons of gas flowing into the state this weekend.
But with stop gap measures not working, the Defense Department on Saturday put into motion new plans to provide fuel directly to gas stations in New York and New Jersey that have run dry, as well as send generators — along with National Guard troops to operate and secure them — to gas stations unable to pump fuel because they are in areas still blacked out by the storm.
The expanded Pentagon effort for providing gasoline will supplement an initial, stopgap program begun Friday to pump fuel at 10 National Guard armories, 5 in New York and 5 in New Jersey.
At gas stations that have fuel supplies, but no electricity needed to pump gas, the Defense Department will start operating generators. Those generators will be supervised — for safety and security — by National Guard troops in cooperation with local law enforcement.
However, the plan would not address the problem Mr. Christie said New jersey faces, with many stations unable to run generators.
For gas stations that have electricity but have run out of fuel in the post-storm rush to buy gas, the Pentagon — working through its contracting arm, the Defense Logistics Agency — will deliver fuel. This will be an increasing priority as the regular power grid comes back online.
More than 700 gas stations in New York and New Jersey had been identified, and generators and fuel would be delivered based on assessments of need by federal and local authorities in conversations with the fuel industry.
In other Pentagon efforts disclosed on Saturday, the Defense Department, again supported by National Guard personnel and the Army Corps of Engineers, will install generators at blacked-out fuel terminals in hopes of eliminating bottlenecks in the distribution network between supplies and consumers.
The Department of Energy and local utilities companies are assessing which fuel terminals should receive priority in restoring electricity from the regular power grid. The Pentagon has offered to provide components and to transport them where needed, officials said.
But with the election just days away, despite the robust plans, the images being seen around the country remained those of snaking lines, angry confrontations and abject frustration.
At a Shell station in Ossining, N.Y., a co-owner Frank Manicchio, 32, said that for the previous three days he had been rationing fuel, giving priority to emergency vehicles, Cablevision and people in desperate straits. But the station received a tank this morning, he said, and he is expecting the situation to become normal soon.
“Everything is flowing now, but you have people coming in with three-quarters of a tank blocking people who really need it,” Mr. Manicchio said. “People aren’t being rational. They act like it’s the end of the world when things will settle down in a couple days.”
Vinny Grecco, 47, of Croton-on-Hudson, had spent more than two hours in line. “I’m on fumes!” said Mr. Grecco, who needed the refill to get to work.
Richard Fasanella of Staten Island said he waited in line at a Hess station for 16 hours on Friday. When he finally got to the pump, he saw why the wait was so long. Limited power at the station slowed the pumps to a trickle. He said he watched the gas go in penny by penny. It took 25 minutes to fill the tank of his Honda Civic.
On Saturday, he drove to Bayonne and stood in line with a red plastic jug.
“I’ve been here about an hour,” he said. “That’s nothing.”
Reporting was contributed by Christopher Maag, Sarah Maslin Nir, Marc Santora and Bernard Vaughan.