More than 257,000 still without power in extreme heat
BGE officials continued to scramble Sunday to restore power to nearly more than 257,000 customers as the area suffered with temperatures near 100 degrees for a third day and braced for a chaotic Monday-morning commute.

After the state was rocked Friday night by a fast-moving series of storms, Gov. Martin O'Malley said he would closely monitor the restoration work of Baltimore Gas and Electric, as well as Pepco, and would urge them to beat their own projections. The power companies have said they could restore power to nearly all area homes by this weekend.

"There is no one who will have his boot further up Pepco's behind or BGE's than I will," O'Malley said. "We've got a lot of people who are suffering right now."

BGE has told O'Malley it is "sparing no effort or expense" in working to restore power, company spokesman Robert L. Gould said Sunday night.

"This is a historic storm," Gould said. "We understand as we enter Day 3 and 4, frustration will mount. At the end of the day, a lot of this is manual labor. It still comes down to guys cutting trees up, clearing trees from lines, and guys putting up new poles and lines."

Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties announced that some school buildings would be closed Monday — and related activities canceled — and O'Malley granted all nonessential state employees "liberal leave."

Meanwhile, intersections without working traffic lights promised to be a problem for commuters around the state. The governor predicted that the drive Monday would "very, very likely be a very, very big mess."

Baltimore City expects 80,000 commuters will pick their way to work among downed trees and power lines and hundreds of out-of-order traffic signals. City spokesman Ryan O'Doherty said late Sunday that 144 signals were disabled in the city. Of those, 34 were at critical intersections.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said there would be police officers — and new stop signs — at critical intersections, especially those on main routes into the city from the north.

"We have brought in extra contractors to make sure the job gets done," said Rawlings-Blake, who also passed out block ice to residents suffering from the sweltering heat Sunday. "We are placing officers on those important intersections where we haven't been able to repair those lights."

On Sunday, 14 state roads were closed, down from 184 at the height of the storm, the State Highway Administration said. Along state roads, more than 160 signals are inoperable because of power outages, down from more than 250, the agency said.

The Maryland Transit Administration said it expected its services to be fully operational Monday and urged commuters to use public transportation.

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who traveled around Baltimore this weekend, said she was taken aback by the number of nonworking traffic lights and expressed concern for families and businesses "suffering tremendous economic loss."

"We've never had a situation like this where we've had tremendous damage from something that was undeclared and unknown," Mikulski said. "This is really unprecedented."

Elsewhere in Maryland, commuters in the Washington suburbs were told to expect particularly bad headaches.

"In Montgomery County alone, 430 traffic signals are dark," said State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar.

"[Monday] morning is going to be a very, very difficult commute for some folks," he said.

Winners and losers

The two-hour storm blew customers in through the doors of some businesses and money off the counters of others.