Power was expected to be restored today to some 3,000 Baltimore Gas & Electric customers in parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties whose electricity was disrupted by falling ice-covered tree limbs.
The start of a meltdown helped air and road travel return to near-normal.
Peggy Mulloy, a spokeswoman for the utility company, said that since Wednesday 129,000 BG&E customers had lost their power but that only 2,800 remained without electricity today.
She said the figure of 129,000 included customers who lost electricity more than once.
"Some homes and businesses," she said, "lost their power as many as four times since Wednesday as ice-covered limbs continued to fall on lines throughout the strickened area."
But thawing temperatures did not come in time to prevent three highway deaths on icy roads in Howard and Montgomery counties, and last night two people died in Baltimore when a car slammed into the back of a salt truck on the Jones Falls Expressway.
The accidents raised the number of traffic-related fatalities since Wednesday to six.
Overnight, area police reported few weather-related accidents.
Occasional sunshine and temperatures in the 40s also did not avert early announcements of school closings today in Anne Arundel, Talbot, Caroline, Kent, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties. Schools opening two hours late included Carroll, Baltimore and Prince George's counties. Opening one hour late were schools in Harford County.
Carol Parham, acting school superintendent, blamed Arundel's closing on secondary streets and school buses. "We've got to de-ice our buses. All the ice that's accumulated on top of the vehicles could fly off, posing a danger to the bus driver and other motorists," she said.
In Baltimore, main streets were cleared of snow and ice, and three-quarters of the city's side streets had been plowed, said George G. Balog, director of public works.
The mercury reached 46 degrees in Baltimore and 41 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday. Forecasts called for sunshine and temperatures in the mid-40s through Friday.
"The spell has finally been broken," said Amet Figueroa, a National Weather Service forecaster at BWI.
But temperatures were expected to dip into the 20s overnight, causing leftover moisture to freeze and creating slippery conditions on roads and sidewalks.
Of greater concern to power companies trying to make repairs was the forecast calling for winds of 15 to 20 mph. Emergency managers of SMECO (Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative) and DelMarVa Power and Light, the utilities serving the hardest-hit counties of Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert in Southern Maryland and Dorchester, Talbot and Caroline on the Eastern Shore, were bracing for even more power outages.
They said winds threatened to reverse the results of an intensive daylong effort to restore power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. Work crews had come from as far away as Indiana and North Carolina to assist those power companies.
Despite those efforts, an estimated 32,500 Maryland customers of regional utility companies, including BG&E, remained without
power early today.
"Bona fide mess"
The Delmarva Power & Light Co. said 18,500 Eastern Shore customers in Maryland and Delaware were without power last night, an increase of about 7,000 from Saturday night. "We've got a bona fide mess on our hands," said company spokesman Jay Mason.
Ms. Mulloy said BG&E had 800 workers on duty over the weekend to stay ahead of the problems.
"Many workers checked in at motels in the area they were working in so they'd be close to the trouble spots," she said.
Residents in some areas had been without power since Wednesday morning, Ms. Mulloy said.
One of those, Alberta Jones of Huntingtown in Calvert County, remained in her home with her three grown sons and four grandchildren. "We're surviving," she said. "We have a gas stove and a wood stove. We listen to the battery radio or go outside and play in the snow."
Others, however, left their homes to stay with friends and relatives or went to emergency shelters in the most devastated areas of Southern Maryland and the Shore.
In Caroline County, 125 residents spent the night in two shelters -- the highest count since the facilities were opened Wednesday, according to Bryan C. Ebling, the county emergency management director.
At BWI, where some airlines canceled flights Friday and which had flight delays because of problems throughout much of the Northeast on Saturday, all three runways were clear, and things were "pretty much back to normal today," said spokeswoman Adrienne Walker-Pittman.
State and county highway officials reported that main roads were in good shape yesterday and secondary roads were improving.
The condition of the roads was in marked contrast to Saturday evening, when freezing drizzle forced temporary closings of Interstates 695, 95, 795 and 70 and 97 and caused dozens of accidents.
Car hits salt truck