Mainers coping without heat, water and electricity since last week’s record ice storm crowded shelters Sunday night, as single-digit temperatures swept into the state.

Nearly half of the state’s population – 467,500 people – remained in the dark. Utility companies made only slow progress restoring power.

Many communities – Augusta, Lewiston, Waterville and parts of Portland and towns in western York County – looked like ghost towns. Few cars traveled on roads. Smoke curled from chimneys as people turned to wood stoves to stay warm.

Public schools in the region hit hardest by the worst ice storm in Maine history canceled classes Monday.

Gov. Angus King toured Washington County, where the storm felled an 8-mile transmission line, and said he would ask federal officials this week to declare Maine a disaster area, a move that could help pay for repairs.

King urged residents without heat to stay warm at one of the state’s 117 shelters as the bitter cold settled in through tonight.

“This is the moment of maximum danger, ” King said. “Being independent and crusty and staying home can be all well and good, but let’s put it aside for a night because I just don’t want to wake up and find we have lost somebody.”

More than 3,000 people were expected to stay in shelters Sunday night, up from 2,800 Saturday night and 2,300 Friday night.

The prospects for long-term power repairs looked dimmest in Washington County, where Bangor Hydro officials warned residents of Down East towns that permanent repairs to the transmission lines could take up to six weeks.

A temporary fix could be in place as early as this afternoon, but no one knows how long it might work. In all, 10,000 of Bangor Hydro’s 103,000 customers – 25,000 people – were without power.

Central Maine Power Co. crews made some headway during Sunday, and restored power to 35,000 customers. But it could be up to a week before power is back on for all CMP customers.

Some 177,000 CMP customers – 442,500 people – remained in the dark and some may have to wait up to a week.

CMP could not say how many downed lines have been repaired or how many more need fixing.

“Obviously we’d like to be doing more and connecting more people faster, but our progress has been better in the last 24 hours, so it is a step in the right direction, ” said Gail Rice, a CMP spokeswoman.

Sunday marked the first really cold night since the storm hit Maine last Wednesday.

Temperatures were expected to dip to 0 to 10 degrees in the north and in the teens in the southern part of the state, according to the National Weather Service’s Gray office.

Daytime temperatures could reach 20 to 25 in the north and near freezing in the south. Tonight is expected to be about as cold as Sunday night. Light snow could fall across the state Tuesday.

The cold spell was enough to force Brenda Sears, 57, of Gorham to seek shelter. Two trees had fallen onto the deck of her house and her barn over the course of two days after the storm.

Sears had been without electricity since Thursday and had stayed with friends Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, she felt she had to leave them, but couldn’t go home.

“It looks like a hurricane went though, ” Sears said at the shelter at St. Anne’s Church in Gorham. “I have no idea when I’ll be able to go back home.”

Most businesses were expected to be open. State offices in Augusta also were expected to reopen today.

THREE DEATHS FROM STORM

The death toll from the storm rose to three – two of them suspected cases of carbon-monoxide poisoning in Waterville and Newport. Both had been using emergency generators to try to stay warm.

Martin McCluskey, 58, died Saturday after running a gas generator overnight in his Trafton Road home in Waterville. His home filled with the odorless, colorless carbon monoxide gas. His wife, Gladys McCluskey, remained in critical condition Sunday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bangor, a nursing supervisor said.

Officials did not release the name of a 73-year-old Newport man who died after his wife found him Saturday near a gas generator in the basement of their home.

A third death occurred Sunday in Vassalboro, where a man was killed while helping a neighbor clear downed tree limbs. His name and other details of the accident were not available Sunday night.

Carbon-monoxide poisoning remained a worry as people resorted to various measures to heat homes.

Some people who went to shelters Sunday said they had been using gasoline generators to stay warm, but got scared and stopped when they heard about people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Several people who had used kerosene heaters in the Greater Portland area went to Maine Medical Center for treatment after they suffered headaches from inhaling the heaters’ fumes, said Linda Pearson, a nursing supervisor.

“A lot of people are using kerosene and they are not familiar with it, ” she said. “And it takes your system a long time to clear it out.”

On Saturday, a kerosene heater was blamed for serious injuries suffered by an Otisfield man in a fire at 6:30 p.m.

Pat Martin, 35, suffered serious burns on his face, arms and back as he was trying to keep his Henninger Park House warm, Otisfield Fire Chief Gary Dyer said. Details were not available.

Martin was in stable condition Sunday evening in the special-care unit at Maine Medical Center, said Pearson, the nursing supervisor.

The house Martin was living in was seriously damaged. No one else was at home when the fire broke out, and Martin managed to get to a neighbor’s house to call authorities on a cellular phone.

No one in Otisfield had regular telephone service when the fire broke out, and service by Sunday afternoon was spotty, Dyer said.

OVERWHELMING REPAIRS

For utility companies, the scope of the job restoring power was overwhelming.

Warm temperatures for the second day in a row helped melt some ice off power lines. But the weather also caused ice chunks to fall off trees and damage other lines, said Rice, the CMP spokeswoman.

“It’s been extremely frustrating because these line workers are working like crazy, ” Rice said. “But when they complete a restoration, something nearby will go down.”

More than 1,000 workers – from CMP and other companies it contracted to help – were repairing lines and clearing away trees that threatened to fall on other lines.

In Portland, where thousands of homeowners lost power in suburban areas, public works employees worked to clear away fallen trees in coordination with CMP crews.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Maine National Guard members went to remote communities, using chain saws to cut away fallen trees and brush and clear debris from closed roadways.

King said he would decide today whether to have hundreds of Maine National Guard members continue working to clear roadways clogged by downed trees.

State officials said they were frustrated by the slow progress in restoring electrical power, but felt Maine’s utilities were doing the best possible under the circumstances.

“We’re running into pockets where some guys’ houses are lit up and their neighbors aren’t, ” said Dennis Bailey, King’s spokesman.

He said his mother, who lives in Livermore Falls, is a perfect example.

“She finally got it back at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and the whole town was lit up, ” Bailey said. “She went out to a restaurant and came back at 10 p.m., and a line had fallen at the end of her driveway and hers was the only house that lost power.”

It was still out at noon Sunday, Bailey said.

“She’s got two wood stoves, so she’ll be all right even though it’s supposed to get real cold tonight, ” Bailey said.

SENATORS PLEDGE HELP

Maine’s two U.S. senators said they plan to support the governor’s request for a federal disaster area designation.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe went one step farther and said she was asking the U.S. Navy to consider sending a ship to Eastport to provide backup power while lines were down in Washington County.

“Given the extent and gravity of the damage, I believe a military response would be appropriate, ” Snowe said in a written statement.

Federal disaster aid may not help much, said King, who estimated total damages at $10 million or more.

At least $5 million to $6 million of the damages were to utilities, which King said are not covered by federal disaster aid.

King said state and local officials expect to get federal money for more than $1.2 million in expected costs to clear roads iced over by the storm.

HEADING HOME

There were some small, but encouraging signs that southern Maine was beginning to make a recovery from the storm.

At Portland’s Maine Medical Center, some people who had been ready to be discharged from the hospital since last Thursday were heading home, said Pearson, the hospital’s nursing supervisor.

Over the course of three days, up to 50 people were well enough to leave but could not be discharged because their homes lacked heat or electricity or water.

By Sunday, the number of patients unable to go home from Maine Med had dropped to 12 or fewer.

“They have slowly started to trickle out, ” Pearson said. “But you just cannot send someone home who is quite ill into the situations that there are out there.”