City prepared for dawning of 2000

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 1999

Across the globe, the ball is dropping.

Friday, December 31, 1999

Across the globe, the ball is dropping. The new century is arriving glitch-free in other countries, but that’s no reason to let the city’s guard down, officials said.

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"We’ve kept the reservoirs for the city water system full and we’re working with full staff today through midnight to make sure that the levels are kept to their capacities," Mayor Bob Cleary said.

"We’ve increased our police patrols for this evening for the community’s protection, and there also is a plan in place so that if there is some sort of power failure, we are still going to be able to be in contact with emergency services."

City staff members are prepared for the worst, with a three-day water supply and battery-backup radios.

"I truly think we are in pretty good shape," Cleary said. "In the worse-case-scenario of some sort of power failure, the city will still have plenty of water for approximately three days and the wastewater plant has its own power source. These things are vitally important to the community."

Although the city has gone through the year making sure all computers are Y2K compliant and has already had Y2K test-runs with the county Emergency Management Agency, American Electric Power officials have offered assurance that none of the contingency plans will be necessary. At least, the plans will be unnecessary with regard to the dreaded Y2K bug, AEP corporate communications director Melissa McHenry said.

"We believe that all of our systems are Y2K ready, but we cannot guarantee there will not be a power outage due to the weather or an accident," Ms. McHenry said. "There are always other contingencies, and we will be staffed with thousands of employees throughout our system to ensure that, if someone has an accident and hits a power line or if some other type of routine power failure happens, people will be able to be kept informed and will know it is not a reason to panic."

In preparation for possible problems, AEP has organized backup communications systems with emergency service agencies and organizations so that they are sure to be notified of any outages, Y2K-related or not.

Any number of factors could affect the electric lines and cause a power outage, but its relation to the new century would likely be a coincidence. But, the company is not ruling anything out, either.

"We are advising people to prepare for this as they would any winter storm," said Ms. McHenry, one of the thousands of AEP employees who will be at the office until the early hours of the morning Saturday. "This time of year, a winter storm could come up and you could be without power for a couple of days regardless of Y2K. So, having food and water for a couple of days, as well as batteries and items like that, is always a good idea."

Local shoppers seem to agree, with grocery stores reporting hard hits of last-minute Y2K-concerned shoppers grabbing items from the shelves.

"We’ve been swamped – tons of people have come in," said Mike Huber, Bartram and Sons Grocery manager in Ironton. "We’ve been selling a lot of water, potted meats and sausages, too, but, mainly water."

With the last-minute rush, some items are less well-stocked than others, Huber said.

"We’re running a little low on a few things that we wish we had more of, but not much," he said. "There is still plenty of water, which is the most important thing."

At Lambert’s Grocery, owner Jeannine Lambert believes today will top Thursday’s last-minute rush.

"We’re looking for today to be even busier and we’re ready for it," she said. "As far as selling things people are stocking up on, we’ve been selling those items all week."

Items like powdered milk, canned foods and other non-perishables have been sold, bagged and carried home by Y2K shoppers, she said.

"We did have one guy that bought a lot of matches and candles and another shopper really stocked up on powdered milk and canned foods," she said. "Most everyone is buying a little extra."