Islanders face Y2K mayhem with a shrug

"Officials say Bainbridge Island is as braced as it can possibly be for potential problems as the year, decade, century and millennium draw to a close.They qualified their statements, however, by saying that come midnight Friday, as the calendar rolls over from 1999 to 2000, it’s all on the line. The lines, that is, as in the kind that used to carry telephone and electrical power to the island."

  • Thursday, December 30, 1999 5:00am
  • News

“Officials say Bainbridge Island is as braced as it can possibly be for potential problems as the year, decade, century and millennium draw to a close.They qualified their statements, however, by saying that come midnight Friday, as the calendar rolls over from 1999 to 2000, it’s all on the line. The lines, that is, as in the kind that used to carry telephone and electrical power to the island.Officials say that Bainbridge Island should see no disruption in the factors they can control, such as delivering water, making fuel and other supplies available and providing prompt response to emergencies.It’s the factors they can’t control, however, that create the sole hint of concern.“The only reason we wouldn’t be able to keep going as we have is if Puget Sound Energy fails on Bainbridge Island,” said Tom Svornich, operations manager for the North Bainbridge Water Company.“But having the power go out at midnight does not mean the water stops. It’ll keep pumping until all the water is gone from the ground. I don’t have any fear of there being no water at midnight.”Kristen Wappler, Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman, said she has no fear of electrical power disappearing as the date changes.“We believe it will be business as usual,” she said. “We feel pretty good about all the steps we took to remediate the problem.”The company underwent a three-year, $14 million effort to safeguard against the feared “Y2K Bug,” a perceived programming flaw in some computers which could conceivably cause those machines to misread the year 2000 as 1900 and subsequently go haywire.All of its systems, as well as those of its outside vendors such as Bonneville Power, are fully Y2K compliant, Wappler said. Local service interruptions, should they occur, would be remedied just as quickly as if power lines had been taken down by a windstorm.A US West spokesperson echoed those sentiments, saying that the likeliest source of problems Friday or Saturday would come from overtaxed phone lines used by customers anxiously checking on friends and relatives. She urged that phone lines be kept clear during “peak” hours of 11 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday.Here’s a quick look at other Bainbridge service providers’ Y2K preparedness:Fire: The Bainbridge department’s Phelps Road station will be the island’s “Emergency Operations Center” between Dec. 31 and Jan. 4, executive director Ken Guy said. As part of its “watch” status, beginning Friday, local “critical function service providers” will be on call should a disaster hit, with well-planned backup available from a variety of Kitsap County agencies.Police: Between 8 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Saturday, as many as 10 officers will be patrolling island roads. The remainder of the 20-member force could be assembled quickly should an emergency situation strike.City: All automated and computer systems are Y2K compliant. An upgrade to the telemetry system, which monitors water and sewage pumps, was recently completed.Water: North Bainbridge Water Company, serving 1,400 customers, has a backup generator that can pump water for about five days without power, Svornich said. The South Bainbridge system lacks a generator but will have four days’ worth of stored water in a power outage. The city has two generators and two months’ supply of fuel to keep pumps operating.Sewage: Both the city and Fort Ward Sewage District No. 7 are protected by on-site generators, and even failed systems won’t allow untreated water to be dumped directly into Puget Sound.Banks: American Marine Bank and other institutions with Bainbridge branches have reported that their systems are Y2K compliant. In other words, even during a power outage, their automated teller machines will still dispense cash. Nationwide, it’s being reported that the expected run on cash hasn’t materialized.As a precaution, however, AMB officials will manually print report copies on Friday.“Every penny you had in 1999 will be on the books and available to you in 2000,” the bank’s web site reported.Ferries: While no runs will be canceled or rescehduled, officials caution that there may be “some delay of service between 10 p.m. (Friday) and 4 a.m. (Saturday) because of operations procedures employed to functionally verify each vessel’s readiness to operate and each terminal’s ability to support service,” the Washington State Ferries web site reported.Gasoline: Each of the island’s three public service stations – Village Chevron, ARCO AM/PM and Island Center Texaco – have reported that their storage tanks will be topped off Friday in anticipation of a late rush. All will be open New Year’s Day. None, however, have generators large enough to pump gasoline in the event of a power failure.Stores: Most of the island’s major retailers report that they’re keeping up with a less-than-overwhelming demand for emergency supplies, such as bottled water, batteries, fuel containers, gas stoves and oil lanterns.“If we didn’t know Y2K was going on, we wouldn’t think anything strange was happening,” Safeway manager Tony Martin said. “We haven’t seen anyone go crazy.””

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