"Y2K ... oh, never mind"

"“Well, we’re still here.”After watching and waiting for something to happen during the the change from 1999 to 2000 Friday night, Island County’s director of emergency services, T.J. Harmon, summed up the momentous non-event with that statement.Like thousands of other islanders, Harmon watched televised New Year celebrations from the moment they started in Sydney, Australia. At the same time, she waited for news of some sort of Y2K complication somewhere in the world. If something went wrong in Island County, it was her job to let state and federal officials know.When nothing happened, either outside or within Island County, Harmon said she was happy to report this fact to the state’s Y2K coordination center. As of Monday morning, Harmon said she had discovered no sign of the Y2K bug. Nor had anyone else, including the Australians, who sent their all-clear message nearly 20 hours before South Whidbey crossed the millennial line.“Lights on, Internet up, dogs healthy, beer cold,” was the message from down under.As for Island County’s Emergency Services coordinator?“I got to have New Year’s in lots of different places, including Oak Harbor,” Harmon said.All sectors of Island County pulled through the roll over without so much as a hitch, due in large part, said Harmon, to all the preparations islanders made.In one of those sectors -- the business sector -- the Interwest Bank branch in Clinton was just one of many Southend banks that pulled staff in early Saturday morning to make certain all the dollars and cents were accounted for.Branch manager Don Pinter said he and another bank staffer arrived at the bank at 5 a.m., but over the course of the next several hours found “nary a problem,” even when they turned on computers and opened key application programs.“Each and every computer was checked,” Pinter said.The only sign that Y2K day was different than any other was the length of time it took to receive a fax from Interwest headquarters in Oak Harbor. Because all of the bank’s branches tested their fax machines by sending messages at the same time, Pinter said it took more than a half hour to get through from Clinton.While bank computers were on everyone’s mind, everyone else’s computers were on Scott Lincoln’s mind. The Clinton computer repairman said he was prepared for the worst come Monday morning. But, instead, he found instant job satisfaction when his phone started ringing with only routine service calls. That was exactly what he had hoped for after spending a good portion of 1999’s work days “patching” Y2K susceptible software and hardware.He said he was ready for the Y2K runup to be over.“I almost hated to come to work before the first of the year,” Lincoln said.The only true Y2K service call Lincoln made Monday was to a client who had stowed away a Y2K upgrade for a software application without installing it first. When the software froze that mornings, fixing the problem was a simple matter of installing the upgrade.Y2K will, nevertheless, have a lasting effect on South Whidbey -- for better and for worse. Worse, said Scott Lincoln, will be the convenience of using Y2K as an excuse for any workplace snafus that are even remotely computer related.“The date change is going to be a great excuse,” he said.On the other hand, the preparation that went into bracing for Y2K has already made South Whidbey a safer and more neighborly place, said Christina Baldwin, a member of the South Whidbey Resilience Project. Started 15 months ago, the project has aimed to bring South Whidbey neighbors together to get them prepared for disasters, whether natural or man made. The organization boasts dozens of members and has received attention from media around the area.“Y2K gave us a deadline,” Baldwin said. “Now we’re refocusing our vision to look at the longer-term need for preparedness ... The work of neighborliness goes on.”T.J. Harmon said that just because Y2K has passed, it is not time to throw out stored provisions or to forget where the nearest emergency shelter is. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and storms, can happen any time, she said, and it pays to be ready.“All of the good preparedness, we don’t want people to let go of that,” she said."

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