When Annika Mergner woke up yesterday morning and went downstairs to make coffee, she found that her Mount Airy home was still without power from Wednesday's ice storm.
She headed to the 7-Eleven, but it, too, had no electricity and therefore no coffee. So she boiled water on the gas grill on her back deck and pulled out the old-fashioned, camping-style coffeepot.
"It was surprisingly good. I feel like a frontier woman," said Mergner, whose daughters have been cooking packaged ravioli and canned spaghetti in pots and pans in the fireplace and on the deck grill.
The Mergners are among thousands of Maryland families - mostly in Carroll and Frederick counties - who heated their homes with gas-powered and wood-burning fireplaces, suffered through ice-cold showers, stowed their cordless telephones and pulled long-forgotten board games and brooms out of the closet as they endured a second day without electricity.
With downed trees still obstructing crews' access to power lines and more tree limbs falling as ice melted yesterday, utility company officials said it could be as late as tomorrow before the lights - and the heat - come back on.
Late last night, Allegheny Power crews had restored electrical service to more than half of the 63,500 customers who lost power, leaving about 29,000 people in Mount Airy, Brunswick and other Frederick County towns in the dark, company spokesman Alan Staggers said.
Fewer than 50 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers systemwide did not have power last night and only a handful of those were in Carroll County, a company spokeswoman said, adding that BGE crews would be sent to help Allegheny Power customers. Red Cross volunteers opened an emergency shelter yesterday at Mount Airy Senior Center, where residents can spend the night.
Eight Frederick County schools were closed for a second straight day because of the outages.
Five of the eight wells that supply Mount Airy with water remained shut down last night and one of the three working wells was running on a gas generator. Town officials trucked in bottled water to Mount Airy Elementary and Middle schools, both on the Carroll County side of the town, which straddles the borders of Carroll, Howard and Frederick counties.
"People are going to need to conserve water," Mount Airy Mayor James Holt said. "Once the power goes on, we'll be fine again."
But utility company officials say that could be a while.
"We can't say exactly how long it will take," said Guy Fletcher, a spokesman for Allegheny Power, which provides utility service for Mount Airy and everything west of the town in Maryland.
Ginny Barnhart is the receptionist at Town Hall in Mount Airy. Yesterday, she said, her job title might as well have been "abusee."
"People have been really nasty," Barnhart said of residents who have called to complain about the power outages and ask what they should do. "They've already called the power company. They've gotten no response. And I guess they need someone to vent to. When you're cold and hungry and you can't cook, it's understandable."
In the meantime, residents were making do as best they could.
Twins Kim and Rose Vollmer put out a sign yesterday morning advertising $25 stacks of their stepfather's wood and within 10 minutes they had customers.
Without electricity to power their well, 14-year-old Dylane Fink and her family were melting snow in the fireplace to refill toilets and to brush their teeth.
Holt spent Wednesday night at a Frederick hotel with his wife and Dalmatian dog. The Holts' electricity was off and the top of their chimney was frozen shut by ice, leaving them unable to even use their fireplace.
Others apparently pulled out electrical generators left over from Y2K preparations.
"There's one house in our neighborhood with a generator," Annika Mergner said. "You can hear it humming, and all their Christmas lights were on."
"They're taunting us," Merg- ner's 14-year-old daughter, Michelle, chimed in.
But aside from a few inconveniences - subsisting primarily on Oreos and canned food, replacing their cordless phones with an old landline model, and not being able to find lost items in their bedrooms after dark - the Mergners seemed to be having a good old time.
"We swept the kitchen today because we can't vacuum," said Mergner. "It worked pretty well. You'd be amazed. We just swept everything into a pile and picked it up.
"We were commenting last night that, in a way, maybe we should turn the power off once a month," she added. "In this electronic age, it seems like everyone is always sitting in front of a box in different rooms of the house. Someone's in front of the TV here and someone else is in front of the computer there.
"But [Wednesday] night, we got out actual board games and were actually in the same room sitting across from each other. And it was nice."