By the time power returned to her 23rd Avenue house Wednesday afternoon, Jess Guerin had already lost her fish, her aquarium-encased coral and her food supply.
"There's thousands of dollars - gone," Guerin said.
Guerin was among the lucky Altoona residents to regain electricity as Penelec outage numbers dropped slowly from the thousands to the hundreds Wednesday.
At roughly 40 hours in the dark, she's luckier than many still powerless on the Eastern seaboard - but the outage was enough to destroy her perishables and drive her neighbors temporarily out of town.
In scattered, block-sized pockets throughout Altoona, houses sat empty with cellphone numbers taped to doors and curtains drawn shut. For many, a day without light and heat was enough to force a temporary move to relatives' homes.
"We come up every day, but I stay at my brother's at night," said Ann Clancy, whose house in the shadow of Prospect Park remained disconnected Wednesday afternoon, courtesy of a fallen tree.
For those who stay, the boredom and aggravation of living even briefly without electricity can have a more powerful effect than one might think, said Amy Metzger, a psychiatrist at Altoona Regional Health System.
"We're dependent on artificial lighting," Metzger said. "At 7 [p.m.] it's dark, and our body's telling us it's time to go to bed. It has a very significant effect on our sleep cycle."
By Tuesday night - 24 hours after her house first went dark - Guerin resorted to running an extension cord from a lucky neighbor's house, just so her children could enjoy the distraction of some TV time.
When the storm first hit, she said, they enjoyed the excitement of losing power. But by Tuesday, the kids were squabbling.
"Just like in the winter, when people are stuck in the house ... They tend to get rather pent-up, irritable, moody," Metzger said.
And unlike in winter, those without electricity don't get the benefit of TV, computers, cold water or nighttime lighting, let alone homemade food.
Her power back less than an hour ago, Guerin laughed knowingly at the mention of the word "irritable."
The popular image of blackout-affected city dwellers taking to the streets and coming together for block parties may occasionally hold true, Metzger said, but just as often, bitter and cabin-fever-stricken neighbors will complain about the allegedly faster service that others received.
"One thing I see is class warfare," she said. "It's, 'Oh, the rich people got their power back first.'"
And even with energy restored, tossing out days' worth of perishable food is enough to hurt any homeowner's wallet. For Guerin, no insurance could cover her hundreds of dollars in wasted groceries.
Clancy fared better: Her husband set up a generator to keep their food cold, she said.
But those who stayed at relatives' houses - often its own mentally trying experience, as Metzger attested - will likely return home to find inedible food and shiver-inducing air temperatures. And that's after days spent with unprepared family members who may not have been overjoyed by their surprise visits.
For some, though, hot water might be enough to begin the recovery.
"I just can't wait to take a shower," Guerin said. "It's been horrible."