Long Island victims of Sandy cope with the dark, cold

(CBS News) FREEPORT, N.Y. -- East of New York City, the power is still off in half the homes and businesses on Long Island, where 2.6 million people live.

People there have been forced into a 21st century version of frontier life.

Full Coverage: Hurricane Sandy
Sandy at a glance: Outages, shelter locations, more

Jacqueline Mattis drives the local school bus in Freeport, but no power, means no school - and, at home, it means a lot of candles.

"I keep it lit actually, but I watch it. I don't sleep," she said, "because I have to make sure that we don't burn down."

Her daughter, Ebonee Thomas, is home to help her clean up her flooded basement. The dental office where Thomas works is closed, too. But no power there likely means no paycheck.

"It's November 1st and bills need to be paid and I don't have, you know, money," Thomas said.

It's come down to eating cans of tuna. There's no heat, no lights, no hot water.

"You're taking a cold shower, and you're coming from the cold shower to the cold air," Thomas said.

A huge tree down, and the family car, flooded.

If the car won't start and the insurance doesn't cover it, Mattis said she doesn't have too many options.

"I don't want to really think about that. I know that my plan B or C -- at this point I'm not really sure what letter in the alphabet I'm at yet," Mattis said.

Then, there are the little things.

Kareem Jarrett-Lewis and her son, Amani, found refuge at a library.
Kareem Jarrett-Lewis and her son, Amani, found refuge at a library.
CBS News

"I heard on 'KJOY' that the library is charging phones, so, we'll walk over there," Mattis said.

At Freeport Library, just down the street, we found the most important resources were power and heat.

"Its been cold some nights," said Amani, a young boy who was at the library with his mother, Kareem Jarrett-Lewis.

"Dark and cold," Kareem added.

Kareem Jarrett-Lewis, a science teacher, made sure that her son didn't miss his studies even though school was closed.

"So we are here not only for homework but for warmth and I guess to be around people," Kareem said.

These libraries have become a sort of refuge, but they're a refuge that close at 9 p.m.