Thousands still trying to cope

On the first workday after Isabel blew through the state, Marylanders will find schools closed, traffic signals out and thousands still trying to cope without power.

Officials in Anne Arundel, Harford, Calvert, Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's, Montgomery and Baltimore counties decided to keep their schools closed today because of buildings that lacked power and streets that were blocked by downed trees.

Seventeen Baltimore City schools were also expected to be closed, as well as seven to 10 in Howard County, depending on the progress of repairs overnight.

Four days after Isabel struck, thousands will be leaving homes without electricity to drive on streets clogged with debris and unprotected by working traffic lights at some intersections.

About 175 traffic signals remained out statewide last night, including 42 in the city, according to city and state officials. By law, such intersections become four-way stops.

All trains and buses operated by the Maryland Transit Administration were scheduled to be back in service, said Richard Scher, an MTA spokesman.

Amy London of Cedarcroft was not looking forward to the first morning going back to work.

"It's a bad combination not having a hair dryer or a coffee machine," said London, 52, yesterday while taking a break from pumping water out of her home's flooded basement on Pinehurst Road.

London will have to drive her 16-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son to school before going to her job at Agora Publishing in Mount Vernon.

Her work, however, will be a break from a home without power, she said.

"Luckily, we're out of the house for nine hours, so you stop thinking and worrying about it," she said.

Officials said they decided yesterday to close schools because many buildings were without power and many streets were flooded and blocked by tree limbs.

"Kids can't walk to the bus stop or to their schools because there's so much flooding and downed trees," said Douglas J. Neilson, a Baltimore County schools spokesman.

At least 30 of Baltimore County's 163 schools remain without power and numerous roads are impassable, Neilson said.

Damages from Isabel are still being assessed but are certain to run into "the tens of millions of dollars," said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Yesterday, he signed an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to allow businesses to apply for federal financial aid to help pay for the cleanup.

Clearing roadways and debris continued to be a major problem in some areas.

Ehrlich said 14 state roads remained blocked yesterday because of flooding or downed trees, with most of the closed roads in Dorchester, Prince George's and Baltimore counties.

Mayor Martin O'Malley said the storm is costing the city $600,000 per day to pay for police, firefighters, public works and other emergency workers.

But O'Malley said city crews had cleared debris from the streets and that city highway workers may be sent to surrounding counties to help clear debris.

"We're offering help where it's needed," he said.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials said that repair efforts were hampered by the extensive network of downed trees and limbs.

Service is not expected to be fully restored until Friday. Fewer and fewer customers will see their service restored each day as the work progresses and crews move to smaller clusters of outages.

"This is an unprecedented event, nothing like this has ever happened before," said Paul J. Allen, a vice president for Constellation Energy, BGE's parent company.

Most of those without power were in Baltimore City, and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. But thousands of customers remained without service in other areas.

But Ehrlich and O'Malley praised yesterday the performance of BGE's crews.

"I'm very happy with the level of cooperation we've received," Ehrlich said.

O'Malley said BGE responded quickly to requests the city made - to restore electricity as quickly as possible to senior citizen high rises, public housing complexes and police and fire stations.

"When we've given them our priorities they've been pretty responsive," he said.

But O'Malley said he realizes that people's patience will start to wear thin.

"It's hard to ask people to be patient. Residents' reserve of patience will run lower and lower as time goes on," said O'Malley, whose home never lost power.

After three full days without electricity, some people were feeling frustrated yesterday.

"It's amazing that it's taking so long, usually we have power back in five to eight hours," said Charles Owens, whose home on Greenspring Valley Road lost power Thursday at 5 p.m.

Like many of his neighbors, Owens' water is supplied by a well - which depends on electricity to work.

"You can't even flush any toilets," he said.

Without water or power, he spent much of the weekend reading and working out at the Baltimore Country Club.

Most state and local government offices were expected to be open today, but many shops and offices remained closed, including those in the World Trade Center in Baltimore.

According to the Motor Vehicle Administration, vehicle emission testing stations in Clinton, Owings Mills and Gaithersburg will remained closed.

In Harford County, residents continued to clean up waterfront communities, where the storm surge flooded basements and ripped a waterfront promenade from its pilings in Havre de Grace.

Mayor David R. Craig said today's focus would be getting the city's FEMA application in order and having the promenade's engineer inspect the damage. He estimated repairs would cost $2.5 million.

Several historic buildings fared better than officials had thought, Craig said, and some $600,000 in recent renovations at the Frank J. Hutchins Memorial Park appeared in good shape, except for a retaining wall that gave way.

In North Baltimore near Greenmount Avenue, residents of two blocks decided to hold their street fair as planned yesterday afternoon. This despite the fact that the 3200 block of Abell Ave. was without power.

'We're not powerless'

Wendy Kronmiller, a lawyer who lives on Abell Avenue, said, "We're not powerless. We're without electricity."

Residents also spent much of yesterday clearing debris from their yards.

At noon yesterday, the line of cars waiting to pull into an area of the Millersville landfill in Anne Arundel County was 20 cars long. Many had trunks and backseats crammed with branches, tree trunks, leaves and shrubbery.

"This is just a scratch from the surface of our yard," said Greg Crosby of Pasadena, who lost several trees in the storm. "I plan to make about six or seven trips because we've got a really big mess."

Water supply problems continued in Anne Arundel County, where officials advised residents to drink bottled water or to boil tap water they intend to drink.

"You cannot assume that the water in the hurricane-affected area is safe to drink," Anne Arundel health officials said.

O'Malley said city water remained safe to drink. He also said health inspectors were brought in from surrounding counties to help inspect restaurants and food establishments that were affected by Isabel.

But health officials statewide cautioned parents not to allow children to play in floodwater or play with floodwater-contaminated toys that have not been disinfected.

Death toll

The death toll from storm-related incidents remained at six yesterday, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

In addition, MEMA said the death of a pedestrian struck Friday by a vehicle in Calvert County may have been storm-related.

The deaths included Michael Hall, 22, of Pasadena and his 3-year-old daughter, McKayla R. Hall, who were asphyxiated in their home Saturday by carbon monoxide from an improperly ventilated emergency generator.

Crystal Rosendale, 20, a friend who was visiting Hall and his daughter when the three were overcome by carbon monoxide, remained in critical condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma.

The fatalities included two out-of-state utility workers who were electrocuted.

One was identified yesterday as Aaron Presley, 45, of Flora, Miss.

Presley was electrocuted about 2 p.m. Saturday in Stevenson when he touched a live wire on Cranwood Court, according to Baltimore County fire officials.

Presley was married and had two children - a son who is a senior in high school and a daughter attending junior college, said Checky Herrington, a spokesman for Entergy Mississippi.

Sun staff writers Julie Bell, Johnathon E. Briggs, Lane Harvey Brown, Hanah Cho, Greg Garland, Laura Loh and Molly Knight contributed to this article.