It wasn't until 12:45 yesterday morning that Jim Parker finally got good news about the last of Carroll County's public schools without electricity.
"I was having one of those little kind of sitting-up naps you have when you're waiting for a call," Parker, the school system's maintenance supervisor, said of his nearly sleepless night. "I called BG&E to ask them what the status was and they said they were just about ready to turn it on."
He arrived at Runnymede Elementary School, between Westminster and Taneytown, at 1 a.m. to flip the switch that restored power to the red-brick building and cleared the last hurdle to reopening the entire school system yesterday on schedule.
Yesterday, as residents in other parts of the state continued to struggle with the effects of Isabel, life in Carroll County had just about returned to normal for many.
All but one of 70 roads closed by the storm had reopened.
About 15,000 utility customers in Carroll remained without power - including residents in one senior housing complex in Westminster who complained of living in darkened apartments - but that number was less than a third of those without lights in neighboring Baltimore County.
And while schools throughout metropolitan Baltimore remained closed yesterday, parents across Carroll County were able to send their kids to class for the first time since the system closed three hours early Thursday.
"It's a relief, to be honest," said Lisa Busher, principal of Runnymede Elementary. "Instruction already was interrupted on Thursday and Friday. Then there was the weekend. It's hard for kids to get back into the groove, especially with the school year being so young."
Fourteen Carroll schools lost power during the storm, but emergency generators and a freezer truck that made the rounds across the county kept the system from losing much cafeteria food other than melted ice cream and spoiled milk, said Stephen Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration.
At Hampstead Elementary, the second-to-last school to regain power, crews loaded an entire cafeteria freezer onto the chilled truck.
When a damaged fuse at Runnymede Elementary had not been repaired by 8 p.m. Sunday, Busher activated her staff phone tree, alerting 100 teachers, assistants, cafeteria workers and office staff to the power outage and asking them to listen to the radio the next morning for news of school closings.
She headed home about 9:15 p.m., leaving a school that was pitch black. Parker, the maintenance supervisor, had to walk the principal to the parking lot with a flashlight.
"It's very spooky with no lights," Busher said.
The principal anxiously called her building supervisor just before 5 a.m. yesterday and was delighted to hear that Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews had repaired the damage.
For some residents, however, living without power remained a nuisance yesterday. Many of the 85 residents at Sunnybrook Senior Rental Community in Westminster complained that they were tired of struggling up and down stairs with their canes. Others said they had been forced to throw out a week's worth of food. Still others said they were tired of taking cold showers.
"We understand we're not assisted living, but these halls have no lights, they've left the trash here, and there's no security," said Sunnybrook resident Mabel Felkner, 69.
Felkner and her neighbors said they blamed their building's management office - not BGE - for their power-related woes.
"I don't see why a place like this don't at least have emergency hall lights," said Walter "Buddy" Sweeney, 83. "They just ain't got enough help here."
Desmond Lyon, 81, said his wife had run over his foot with her wheelchair because she couldn't see in the dark. "I could barely get my boot off, my foot was so swelled up," Lyon said.
A woman working in the facility's office said she would talk with a Sun reporter yesterday but left before granting an interview. Subsequent attempts to reach Sunnybrook managers were unsuccessful.
A state fire marshal visited the facility yesterday and told managers to find a backup power source to light hallways. But fire marshal Edward Ernst said he could do little more than pressure Sunnybrook officials. "By the time we could fine anybody, the power will be back on," he said.
Across the county, about 12,000 BGE customers remained without power yesterday evening. Allegheny Power officials said about 2,800 Carroll customers had not regained electricity at 6 p.m. yesterday, but they projected that everyone would have power by tonight.
"It's probably one of the worst storms we've had in a while, but for Carroll County, it didn't turn out that bad," said Howard Redman, the county's director of public safety. "The way the storm developed, the clear areas seemed to keep falling over us."
Expected floodwaters never materialized, and wind seemed to be the main culprit behind the damage the county sustained.
Gusts up to 52 mph downed power lines, sent trees toppling onto houses and covered roads with wet leaves and branches. Most parts of the county received less than 2 inches of rain. Fallen trees and power lines closed more than 70 roads Friday but only one - Lees Mill near Hampstead, which was blocked by a large tree and a downed power line - remained closed yesterday.
Chris Crouse of nearby St. Paul Road said he was without power and water and was certain that the tree tangled in power lines was to blame.
With unwashed hair and a bottle of water in hand, Crouse took a walk down Lees Mill Road late yesterday afternoon to check whether crews had made any progress. They had not.
"On Saturday, a Baltimore County crew came out and looked at the situation," he said, "but they left when they realized they were in Carroll County."
Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.