HICKSVILLE, N.Y. – As a chilly nightfall returned to Long Island,Â some 370,000 customers remained without electricity nearly a week afterÂ superstorm Sandy, forcing residents in the suburbs across the region toÂ adopt an austere new way of life.
They wore layers of clothing throughout the day to deal with theÂ plummeting temperatures. They spent their waking hours traveling fromÂ location to location in search of an active electrical current thatÂ might charge their cellphones. They stood on gas-station lines forÂ hours, orange cans in hand.
Faced with dwindling fuel supplies, some drove less. InÂ darkened neighborhoods where looters were widely feared, they helpedÂ keep watch on each other’s houses.
“It’s like a bad Stephen King novel,” said Michael Benado, 55 yearsÂ old, a licensed loan officer and avid golfer whose house near SeafordÂ Harbor, N.Y., flooded and remains without power.
The Long Island Power Authority said it had reenergized 675,000Â customers by Sunday, but large swaths of Long Island remain in the darkÂ as residents face some of the most widespread and prolonged blackouts in Sandy’s aftermath.
An extended trip back to the pre-electrical era has forced many to slow down and remember a less distracted way of life.
“You might as well go 20 miles per hour and help people and slowÂ down,” said Mr. Benado, one of several residents waiting to use publicÂ showers at Cantiage Park in Hicksville on Sunday afternoon.
Some said they’ve fallen into a new routine – something that felt regular, if not quite comfortable.
“We have to make sure everything’s taken care of before the darkÂ comes,” said Danielle Ferguson, 34, of Hicksville. “You have to makeÂ sure the candles are lit and the flashlights are out before 5 o’clock.”
Ms. Ferguson, a medical assistant, said the adjustment had beenÂ hardest on her children, ages 10, 12 and 14. The family lost power aÂ week ago, last Sunday.
“They’ve been adjusting because they’re constantly on the computer at home,” she said. “They’re learning how to play like kids, like when weÂ were kids. I kind of like the adjustment in that way.”
Still, as the nights get colder, she worries about her children’sÂ asthma, which could be exacerbated by the cold air. “It’s scary, youÂ don’t know what to do,” she said. “We’re bundling up.”
Ms. Ferguson and her husband, Mark Capone, 39, a dietary aide at aÂ nursing home, said they’re now using only one vehicle between them,Â instead of three. The couple was also waiting to use public showersÂ opened by the local government for residents without power.
“It’s hard, it’s depressing,” Mr. Capone said. “It’s just not fun. This is the first time I’m taking a shower in a week.”
Chris Hirx, a 44-year-old sign painter from Coram, said he has seenÂ Long Islanders donating clothes, sharing gasoline and “throwingÂ extension cords over fences to connect to the neighbors that people have never spoken to.”
“You’ve got a small percentage of the population whose mettle hasÂ been tested, and they’re impatient and rightly so,” he said. “What I’mÂ seeing more of is a greater percent of the population that’s steppingÂ up. They’re licking their wounds, and their service to others hasÂ greatly increased.”
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, in an interview Sunday, urged residents without power to take shelter with family or friends asÂ temperatures drop. Residents can also stay at four Red Cross shelters.
Mr. Mangano said he was proud of the way his residents have actedÂ after widespread flooding, a week without power and dwindling gasoline.
“The people of Nassau County are determined to rebuild and bring theÂ county back to what it once was,” he said. “When visiting residents, the emotions are high. They range from despair to determination to rebuildÂ our county.”