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N.J. Residents Still Coping Without Heat, Electricity Following Season's First Snowstorm

LAFAYETTE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Tens of thousands of people are still in the dark and cold after Monday's winter storm, and the power might not come back on for a few days.

JCP&L said crews are working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service.

As of Wednesday night, about 9,650 customers were without power in Sussex County, including over 1,900 in the town of Sparta, CBS2's Reena Roy reported.

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A diner in Newton is the place to be this week, because it's lucky enough to still have electricity. On Wednesday, residents, many of whom have been without power for more than a day, lined up for some breakfast and warmth.

"Oh, it's terrible, terrible. We gotta sleep with our clothes on at night. There's no power whatsoever," said Russell Losey of Lafayette. "I came here for breakfast. It's the only way you can warm up."

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Gail Ludwig and her husband have been staying with their son, after Monday's snowstorm tore through Sussex County, leaving trees in the road and power lines dangling from the air.

"It went out 3:30 on Monday and we have a small farm in Greendell, so it has been a little inconvenient," Ludwig said. "We were just getting ready to go and find a place to get takeout when our son arrived to check on us to see if we were okay and he said come home with us, so that's what we've been doing."

Others, like Donna Jean Donatuccio, said they are just trying to stick it out at home, doing what they can to stay relatively comfortable.

"We've been using blankets, generators, sweatshirts, jackets. You name it, we've been using it," Donatuccio said.

But even with those thick layers, patience is wearing thin.

"I have some illnesses going on, so it's been very difficult for me," Donatuccio said.

Generators, for those who have them, have been on full blast, as people pray for some relief.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at Sussex County Technical School in Sparta.

"It is open for anyone who is affected by the storms who needs a warm place to stay, a warm meal, a place to charge their phones," New Jersey Red Coss communications manager Sheri Ferreira said. "Relax and find a little bit of comfort while the power is out."

Elsewhere, a big part of a cracked tree sat on John Read's Andover Township roof. He lost power midday Monday and got it back just minutes before CBS2's Vanessa Murdock rolled up in the Mobile Weather Lab on Wednesday afternoon.

When asked if he feels like he can start to get back to normal, he said, "I don't want to get too ahead of myself doing a happy dance because power could go out just as quickly as it came back on."

Not far away, a busted-up telephone pole was dangling and roads were still closed as 186 crews from as far away as West Virginia worked to get power back to thousands, including Ed Pettit.

"I have no power, whole streets out and everybody's in the same boat," Pettit said.

He said he won't leave because of his furry friends. Thankfully, he has a generator to keep the essentials on-line, including a pellet stove to keep him warm until power is restored.

"It was going to be 10 o'clock on Monday and then Tuesday. Now it's Wednesday and they're talking about possibly 11:30 tonight. I doubt it," Pettit said of his restoration time.

Matthew Cannon of Sparta had quite a harrowing ordeal, himself.

"When the branch first came down and ripped the power line out that was scary because you felt the house shake," Cannon said.

He and his mom, Jennifer, got word Wednesday afternoon that it was safe to move several downed wires blocking their driveway. They hadn't been able to get out since the storm hit.

"We've spent a lot of quality time together," Jennifer said.

JCP&L officials said power will be back on by Thursday at 11:30 p.m., so the thousands of people in the dark still have a ways to go.

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