Atlanta residents stockpiling supplies - 3 months of prescription drugs recommended : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Residents are quietly stockpiling supplies in the event of national chaos

By Clint Williams , The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia's Year 2000 Project Y2K News Year/2000 Journal Amid the yard tools, motor oil, children's toys and miscellaneous clutter typical of any garage, Martie Kelly has stored enough food to feed a dozen people for six months or more.

The 25 shelves of five plastic storage units are filled with hard white wheat, hard red wheat, nonfat instant dry milk and texturized vegetable protein, all packed in airtight gallon cans.

There are 20 cans of tuna fish, bags of dried navy beans and black-eyed peas, spices and cold cereal. There are nine bottles of bleach, which can be used to treat drinking water, plastic sandwich bags, coffee filters and enough toilet tissue to TP Evander Holyfield's mansion.

In the kitchen of her Kennesaw home, a set of floor-to-ceiling shelves is filled with home-canned carrots, green beans, tomatoes and pie filling. One stack of Mason jars represents a year's supply of homemade spaghetti sauce.

Martie Kelly, and many like her in metro Atlanta, are quietly preparing for Jan. 1, 2000, gravely concerned that a computer glitch known as the Y2K bug will bring society to a halt--or at least make it sputter. Expecting the lights to go out and the river of everyday commerce to dry up, they are working toward self-sufficiency: stockpiling food, storing water, buying wood stoves, generators and hand-cranked grain mills. A few are buying guns. Some are even heading for the hills. Real estate agents in North Georgia tell of intense interest in secluded cabins by those fearing chaos in the new year.

"I'd like to have at least six months of anything consumable," says Kelly, an upbeat mother of four children. "That's my comfort level. I think we can untangle almost anything in six months."

It is confusion over two digits that has people bugged. In the early days of computer programming, when computer memory was a costly commodity, software writers saved space by using just the last two digits of a year. As a result, 99 is read as 1999. But next year, computers may interpret the digits 00 to mean 1900. This could cause some systems to shut down or malfunction.

Such computer crashes, the thinking goes, could topple a long line of digital dominoes. The nation's electrical supply grid could blow a fuse. Without electricity, you can't pump gasoline or diesel. Without diesel, there are no trucks on the highway and no deliveries to the grocery stores and hospitals. And disruptions overseas, some say, are bound to affect us here.

"It's like an onion in reverse: The more layers you peel away, the bigger it gets," says state Rep. George Grindley (R-Marietta), chairman of the joint legislative Y2K Task Force.

Grindley is concerned there may be life-threatening interruptions in the delivery of medicines and is writing legislation that would have state government stockpile a 90-day supply of life-sustaining drugs and allow people to purchase a 90-day supply of prescription drugs. Most medical plans now pay for just a 30-day supply.

Y2K "is a bigger problem than people think," says Grindley.

Many worried about Y2K believe civil unrest will come after a few days without power, heat, food and water.

"I think there is going to be looting," says Sheila Lewis Busby, a Marietta music teacher who has established a website ( to make people aware of the problem and teach them how to prepare.

"Everybody I talk to talks about Y2K," says Kevin Anderson, owner of Anderson Power in Marietta. He says the the number of phone calls he gets has nearly doubled.

Anderson says he recently installed a system for the owner of a $700,000 house in Cobb County. The 15,000-watt generator will produce enough electricity to run the entire house, including a small central air-conditioning unit. The generator runs on natural gas or propane. Just in case the natural gas goes out, a 1,000-gallon propane tank is buried in the back yard. Total cost: about $14,500.

Another customer, Anderson says, "expects a full 10-day shutdown. He has already decided which tree he is going to cut down to block his road."

Most concerned about self-defense amid any Y2K-triggered chaos aren't going to such extremes. They're just buying guns.

"You know who is buying guns," says Jay Wallace, owner of Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna. "The computer people, people in the know."

"We're selling all types of guns, the riot-type shotguns, revolvers," Wallace said.

The Y2K-related boost to business is noticeable, but not overwhelming, gun shop owners say.

"I don't have waves of people in mass hysteria descending on me," says Paul Thorn, owner of Master Gunman in Stone Mountain.

Most people, though, are stockpiling food, not ammo.

AlpineAire, a California company that packages dehydrated and freeze-dried foods for long-term storage, expects 1999 sales to be eight times 1997 sales, says Rod Allen, vice president of marketing and sales.

The most popular product is the "premium system" that provides one person enough food for a year. The cost: $2,992.

"And at least 50 percent of sales are two systems or more," Allen said.

But you don't need to stock up on freeze-dried food and military MREs to be prepared for Y2K, says Buzz Nofal, a computer consultant and organizer of a Y2K preparedness seminar held Saturday at the Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown Atlanta.

"Almost any canned food you pick up off the shelf at Kroger will last through the Y2K issue," Nofal says.

"We're trying to help people prepare in a manner that wouldn't impact their lives if nothing happens," Nofal adds.

Preparing for Y2K, says Ken Larson of Gwinnett County, is no more kooky than buying fire insurance or disability insurance.

"It's consumable insurance," says Larson, webmaster of a Y2K site ( com/keninga/links2.htm). "If nothing happens, great. You don't have to go to Wal-Mart for three months."

Preparing for Y2K now, says Martie Kelly, puts her in a position of helping others later.

"I'd like to think that if anyone came knocking on my door and asked nicely, I'd be able to feed them," says Kelly, who has become a cheerful evangelist for preparedness. "Now, if they tried to take it, we'd have a problem."

And if nothing happens, Kelly says, she will still be able to help others.

"It's a ministry opportunity if nothing happens," she says. "There are always hungry people I can feed."

-- a (a@a.a), January 31, 1999


With neighbors like this, Robert should be quite comfortable.


-- Chuck, night driver (, January 31, 1999.

I'm very impressed with these Georgians busily preparing. Up here in northwestern Ohio too many are still asleep or in denial. Last week I was compared to Chicken Little. People give me strange looks when I purchase large amounts of food and other items. Of course, people give me strange looks most of the time anyway...

-- dinosaur (, January 31, 1999.

Problem is - these guys aren't Atlanta residents - look at the cities and counties quoted: Cobb, Marietta (Cobb), Stone Mountain (Gwinett), "north GA mountains" (general), Cobb (again), etc. The state legislator quoted was from Marietta.

The counties north and west of Atlanta are generally very, very aware of the problem, and I feel most people are getting ready prudently, but quietly. Cobb itself is way ahead of almost every county goverment nationally in preparations, and is close to finishing testing all its systems. Remediation itself was reported finished last Sept for Cobb Water, Marietta power company, Marietta city government itself. Fire and police have tested okay. Tax offices are a little behind, but are replacing systems. Even the Cobb library system has replaced computers, is reloading book data now. Cobb EMC is almost ready, and has two systems left to go. (Emergency preps and testing their contingency plans are underway too.)

It leaves some serious questions about availablity of power from the grid itself, and availablity of natural gas from the national pipelines, but once it gets here, things are looking fairly good.

But Atlanta itself is apparently doing nothing. And saying even less.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, January 31, 1999.

Robert, Stone Mtn. is in DeKalb county. Not to pick nits with a fellow southerner by any means. Native southerners know that a way of life can be swept away in a short time, so we are more apt to be prepared. Things in metro Atlanta are going to get mighty ugly when the inner city population becomes desperate and begins to forage. Keep your powder dry.

-- doktorbob (, January 31, 1999.

Yeah, Gwinnett County, Georgia, resembles Atlanta about as much as Petticoat Junction resembles The Bronx. No slights intended to any of the areas, but for those in the north or west, I can assure you that urban Atlanta will be no more prepared that any other city.

-- Puddintame (, January 31, 1999.

I read that article this morning. Two things struck me.

First, how imprudent it is for those named "stockpilers" to allow themselves to be identified.

Second, the absence of any substantive reporting on the numerous contingencies that may cripple infrastructure. The people trying to get ready know what disruptions are possible, and in general, how and why. But nothing is said of this in the report. No one not yet aware of the potential problems could find in this article any reason to inquire further.

It says, some people are stashing away food and supplies. OK. So?

It says, some local governments are taking care of any possible problems. OK. Where's the beef?

BTW Gwinnett Co., where I live, is by no means a rural county any more. Population density is rising every day. I agree it's not as crowded as Atlanta proper, nor does it compare with the Bronx. But it sure as hairballs is no safe haven.

What's more, the demographic diversity in Gwinnett is high now, and rising. There are dozens of languages spoken here. Three, that I know of, just in our apartment building. Many of the newcomers have little or no English. Come bad times, communication is likely to be an additional problem.

-- Tom Carey (, February 01, 1999.

Tom - let me know what you find out about Gwinnet (and Dekalb too, if they are doing anything) getting ready at the county level.

Over here in Cobb, the seven smaller cities (Marietta, Smyrna, Kennesaw, Acworth, Powder Springs, etc.) seem to have more influence on tax structures and infrastruture (government services) than on your side of Atlanta - the county response to Y2K would appear to be more important to your well-being.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, February 02, 1999.

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