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"Water, power, food all available for Y2K"

"Are you ready for Y2K? If not, everybody else is.One group of South Whidbey neighbors has already done much of the footwork needed to reassure local residents that life will go on after the Y2K rollover.Members of the South Whidbey Resilience Project called area businesses during the past month to make certain they will have the things people need to make it through a prolonged power outage or any other disaster. According to group member Christina Baldwin, local banks will have their ATMs up and running through the date rollover for customers needing cash. Southend hardware stores have stocked extra supplies of propane, kerosene, cook stoves, batteries, fire logs and stove pellets. And grocery stores are stocked against supplier interruptions that could be caused by ferry failures, traffic snarls, or anything else remotely Y2K related.Star Store manager Bill Green said his store always stocks up on certain foodstuffs, batteries, and other supplies at this time of year for the holidays and to prepare for bad weather. “Generally, we do this every year,” Green said.While the store has been busy during the past few weeks, he said he could not necessarily attribute the extra traffic to a Y2K panic.But all the worry and preparation in this rare millennial season might be for naught, because the Southend’s electric utility, water districts, municipalities, and ferry dock are all reported to be Y2K-proof.Speaking for Puget Sound Energy, public relations manager Karl Kirn said Monday that his company and all other regional electric utilities are Y2K compliant down to the smallest electronic switch. PSE finished its Y2K checkup well ahead of time, on June 30.“We don’t anticipate any problems,” Kirn said.Even so, PSE will have 250 employees stationed in the field on New Year’s Eve, available to operate the company’s electric grid manually if computer controls fail. “Well, there’s no guarantee, but we’ve checked and rechecked that equipment dozens of times,” he said.Island water system managers have long known that there are no guarantees when it comes to getting electricity to the Southend during stormy weather. As such, most of the large local water systems have been Y2K and disaster compliant for years. In Clinton, the natural force of gravity will keep Clinton Water District customers well hydrated for weeks, even without the benefit of electricity. System manager Mike Helland said the the district has been developing a gravity-fed system for years, and can now provide a two-week emergency supply to most customers when the power is out.“And we have a backup generator for the part of the system that is not gravity fed,” Helland said.The biggest change the Clinton district, along with several others, had to make was in its billing software. It was not Y2K compliant and was replaced.In Langley, Y2K preparedness has brought the city’s administrative and utility functions to the point at which they could be self sufficient for long periods of time. After changing out computers and software to keep City Hall Y2K compliant, the city spent $58,000 on a 125 KW generator and power cables that can be used to power both City Hall and the Langley Library. Langley Public Works director Rick Hill said the city could operate the diesel-powered generator for weeks, if need be, since South Whidbey School District has agreed to sell the city fuel from its bus garage.Across town at the sewage treatment plant, two more generators will keep the treatment process going in any Y2K power failure, said Hill. Generator-powered lift stations within the city will even keep new sewage moving to the plant.But Hill said he does not believe any of these precautions will be needed on New Year’s Eve.“I don’t anticipate any problems,” Hill said.For those who feel a deep need to escape the island during the Y2K rollover, the Washington State Ferries dock at Clinton expects no delays, no matter what happens in the rest of the world. Ticket seller Jim Stockholm said last week that the dock and terminal have been disaster-resistant for more than a month.A recently-installed generator will power ticket booths and the terminal manager’s office during a prolonged outage, while the ferries themselves produce enough electricity to power the remainder of the dock functions. WSF will also power up its Emergency Operations Center in Seattle for the date rollover. Personnel at the center will be especially attentive after midnight, when ferry crews interrupt run schedules to test propulsion and navigation systems. The ferries will go back into operation as soon as their captains and WSF emergency staff are satisfied that no stray Y2K bugs will affect passenger safety. Meal packs are instant Y2K preparednessSo, you forgot to stock up for Y2K? With just two days to go, what do you do? Buy a 5-day meal pack at the South Whidbey Senior Center, of course.For the past month, the center has been selling meal packs that offer five complete, 800-calorie meals.Originally designed as a way to keep Meals on Wheels recipients stocked with food in the event of bad driving weather, the packs are on sale to anyone who wants to have an added degree of dietary safety on hand.Senior Services nutritionalist Jim Self said Y2K-minded islanders have already reduced his original supply of 1,000 meal packs down to 300. And he is hoping to sell the rest before the end of the year.Seniors have not been the only people buying the packs. Self said a number of members of the South Whidbey Resilience Project have purchased the shelf-stable box meals for their cars and homes, as have hunters, fishermen, and other local residents. At $12.50 per pack (for non-seniors), it is hard to find a better five-meal deal.“It never hurts to be ready,” said Self.The Senior Center is located on Highway 525 across from Casey’s Red Apple. The meals will be on sale through New Year’s Eve."

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