Any 4 to 7's out there? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Are there any of you whom still belive we could end up in some moderate disaster range? Explain how we could have system failures, power outages, rioting & looting, gas shortages, etc... and still remain at a disaster level of 4,5,6 or 7? I feel this whole problem is going to become an "either or" situation. Either we won't see, hear or feel the problems that are bound to occur, or the world will be knocked on it's collective, interdependent ass. How can we have a mild disaster?

-- Bill (, September 19, 1999


I think that the answer lies in whether you view the problem in the micro or macro. Our country is large and can absorb a great deal of problems in many areas. There well may be 9-10 level problems in some areas on the micro or local level. Other areas may have few problems and the average, macro view, may be a 4-5-6 as you described. I'm not saying that this will be the case, but it is the only way I see for the average level you discussed. It is hard to see how it will be just a "little catastrophic". I think it will either be a bump or very bad, depending on the location.

-- smfdoc (, September 19, 1999.

Any Disaster may depend upon location and where you live. Hurricane Floyd passed within 100 miles of my house and we were spared, but woe be my neighbors to the east.

-- Tommy Rogers (Been there@Just a, September 19, 1999.

If you believe the hyperbole of North and Hyatt & their ilk that most mainframes and embedded systems are going to fail, then I guess it's going to be a 10.

I believe that there could be enough failures to make life unpleasant, but not that every system is going to fail. While the remediation effort has its own problems, at least some of the effor is going to pay off. Power may go off in some areas where the local utility has a hidden failure and remain on in other areas. Loss of a single generating plant could result in rolling blackouts for a couple of weeks. This does not necessarily mean a breakdown of society.

So I would ask which systems have been proven to fail, that will lead to the other things you mention. Although the term "mild disaster" is taken literally an oxymoron, I guess there are relative levels of disaster. Would depend on how widespread and how severe the technical failures are. I haven't seen any predictions on this issue that I'm willing to swallow whole.

Speaking of disasters, I am reading the book "The Rift" by Walter J. Williams. In the book, the New Madrid fault in Southeast Missouri lets loose and the shock is felt over a large area. As a consequence, chemical and nuclear plants along the Mississippi cause widespread pollution. I don't know if the scenario presented here is possible, but if it happened I think it would be worse than Y2k.


-- Mikey2k (, September 19, 1999.

Tired of explaining, no one knows for sure, plan for the worst and hope for the best, it may happen, it could happen, prepare as if will happen, TEOTWAWKI, it will be only a BITR. Take your pick, and act on it.

-- taker your pick (, September 19, 1999.


One of my potential scenarios is the 'Disciplined Breakdown' scenario. Panic in the final days before Jan. 1. Come New Years, nothing much happens. There is a loud chorus of laughter from the pollies, but then, as days go by there are strange reports of failures here and there of increasing seriousness. These failures cause serious reduction in the efficiency of society producing events in the 4-7 range as they occur.

But its the 'blackout rolling around the globe' that keeps me up nights.

-- John Ainsworth (, September 20, 1999.

One is reminded of the old economic proverb that says it's ALL relative: A "downturn in the economy" is when the guy on the other side of town is laid off; a "recession" is when the guy across the street loses his job and a "depression" is when you lose yours.

A case in point-Hurricane Floyd. To a resident of N. Carolina (especially that town where the firemen and police are in boats) the storm and the aftermath are tantanmount to a 9 or 10. While I watch it all on TV and read about it over morning coffee and eggs.

If I am safely ensconced in my family compound in an unnamed rural location, unless and until it reaches me and my neighbors, it matters very little what happens over the next hill let alone the next state. In an apartment in a major city; dependent on other people's water, heat electricity and truck delivery schedules, a disruption of even minimal nature is of immediate concern.

I was once in a 40 square block "blackout" that was caused by the failure of a small part. A fire started due to the part and burned out a number of electrical connections zapping all electrical power. For us it was an ordeal. For everybody else, outside the area, it was life as usual (except for the price gouging by businesses on the area fringe-like a certain electronics chain with the initials RS selling cheap promotional flashlights for 10X their pre-blackout prices).

-- chairborne commando (, September 20, 1999.

Imagine watching the world going black, one time region after another as midnight approaches your area. You know it will happen to you, there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Imagine the the IT guys on duty, the electrical utility worker, the water company employee watching the same blackout coming. Do you think anyone would stay at a place of work and not run like hell to be home with their family? That is what scares me. Seeing it coming for real.

-- Carol (, September 20, 1999.

If it goes bad it must go Totally bad.....think INTERCONNECTEDNESS!!

-- matt (, September 20, 1999.

Mikey 2, I read a paper written by the U.S. Geological Survey, written in 1911 or 1912, 100 years after the New Madrid earthquake. This is believed to be the largest earthquake ever to hit the 48 contiguous U.S. states. The paper examined the effects of the quake on farms, buildings, people, the Mississippi River, etc.

After reading what happened in 1811-1812 during this quake, I'd probably believe whatever the author could come up with.

This quake was felt as far away as Misoula, Montana, and rang church bells in Boston, Mass. Covered entire farms with up to two feet of sand, caused by "sand blows" which resulted from the violent shaking of the sandy aquifer. Changed the course of the Mississippi River; swamps became high ground, and vice versa. Destroyed essentially EVERY structure in the region; fortunately, BACK THEN, there was a very small population. After people's rebuilt houses were destroyed by the second and third quakes a couple of months later, they spent rest of the winter in tents.

I always thought the midwest was free of earthquakes--NOT!


-- Al K. Lloyd (, September 20, 1999.

Me. I'm in the 4-7 range.

Problem is, I think this will result in economic collapse (debt is already nearly imploding) and/or war.

-- Anonymous99 (, September 20, 1999.

The effects of disrupted production are not isolated. For instance, when 3 or 4 refineries blew up this past year in California, the price of gasoline went up by 30% all over the Western US. If that type of loss of production was to hit all over the world during one period of time, say first quarter of next year, wouldn't we all be impacted by the loss? If major metro areas have rioting and looting, wouldn't the suburbs and nearby rural areas be impacted by those events? I do not see how a loss in production or breakdown in society could "miss us by 100 miles" like Floyd did.

-- Bill (, September 20, 1999.

This may sound goofy but. Think of the world as one big apartment complex. When y2k hits, we know from legitemit sources that some apartments(countries) are going to have major problems, bordering on fire(chaos). The question you have to ask is. How many apartments have to catch on fire before our apartment(USA) is at risk? AND, although we may be surrounded by fire we do have fire suppresion equipment(some inventories/workarounds), but at what point do we run out of equipment and jump out the window?

If our fire suppresion equipment holds, we will have a 4-5. If not, 6- 8. I personally don't think we'll go above 8, but mabey that's just wishfull thinking.

Whichever scenario strikes, our money markets and job markets will be a 7. The price we pay for not installing a sprinkler system.

-- CygnusXI (, September 20, 1999.

Even a 4 event will effect each of our lives. The result of how this will play out in each personally, can still be determined by location. Much rather be 100 miles west of NYC than struck up in a high rise. Prepare, diversify, community with those in your neighborhood. Status quo will no longer cut the mustard.

-- Tommy Rogers (Been there@Just a, September 20, 1999.

Some of the bigger issues that have not been addressed in the 4-7 range are exactly the civil breakdown problems. When the 'have nots' decide to roll in riotous fashion, anyone even considered a 'have' or consider themselves part of that group will pack up whatever patetic belongings they don't wish to leave at the -tender mercies- of the ravening hordes and bail. Some of those 'haves' however will foolishly believ they will be able to defend against a sea of humanity with their Remington 870 pump and the 10-20 rounds of shot that they had left over from the hunting season. Those of us in the GI camp know that just won't happen. Lets face it...4-7 REALLY means the precursor to the 'Mad-Max Beyond Thunderdome Mode'

People have forgotten that beneath civilized man, animal man awaits...

-- Billy-Boy (, September 20, 1999.


I expect a 4 to 7 impact. A suffiecient number of large firms have spent a sufficient amount to remdiate and plan for contingencies so a "worst case" in the USA is averted. Some regions and utilities have done a better job than others in repairing code and in contingency planning. So I expect many areas will continue to have power and water in January 2000.

I believe there are several precursors for a "worse case scenario":

1. Stock market collpase - so far so good but pressure is building.

2. Panic - credit collapse - bank runs: I think the big money is moving such as fourth quarter debt/bond offerings moved up to 3rd qtr.

I do believe that Koskinen, Greenspan, and other powers are operating on the principle that Y2K impacts are going to be significant but they will be much worse if a panic develops. So, panic avoidance has been the number one startegy since Feb 1999. I do think these powers are smart enough to know that they cannot stall indefinetely, but on the other hand I expect you could not get the bulk of America concerned about Y2K today unless a BIG explosion shook the front page and eveningnews. So, I expect to see more bad news introduced after markets close say on a Friday evening; like news that Medicaid wont be ready in many states and the IRS may well have serious problems.

What will stop us from sliding into a 8-10 scenario?

In my opinion, there will be a drop in imports and a rise in prices especialy for essential items. Domestic production will increase, many of the larger companies will implement contingency plans. With higher prices and higher unemployment, banks may offer grace periods allowing creditors to pay only the interest portions of their bills so to avoid defaults. There is good experience from the 1980s S&L debacle that should have taught creditors to be careful when housing prices fall below the current outstanding value of ones mortgage.

I do think we are in for a period of less choice and higher prices. I wonder how many new cars will be sold in February-March 2000. A loss in confidence would stall non essential spending - so we could move towards a 7.5 but avoid an 8 due to demand for essentials and bank flexibility to avoid broad defaults.

I do believe that many failures can be fixed or worked around in the first few weeks following rollover avoiding a complete systemic collapse. Especially software problems where the author and the source code is readily available. I understand many companies are working on their contingency plans for business continuity now - some are stockpiling raw materials, some can really go manual, and some could operate at lower production and productivity levels or bypass some controls that do not directly impact production like environmental sensors. ( Meaning a coal fired power plant may be allowed to operate by bypassing a scrubber or other environmental system until that system is remediated, not meaning that nuke plants will be allowed to spew out toxic waste). Y2K Contingency Planning is now working per the concept "Defense in Depth" meaning backups for your backups. In my home for example if power fails I have redundant backups: wood for stove and kerosene for heater; chain saw with fuel,oil, extra chain if I run low on wood (some dead trees standing on my property and nearby) and a bow saw if I run out of fuel for chain saw. Same for water - jugs and storage; filter for stream and collection from downs pouts if necessary. Many corporations are proceeding on similar "Defense in Depth".

-- Bill P (, September 20, 1999.

Bill P--insightful analysis.

-- Mara Wayne (, September 20, 1999.

I'm a 4-7, but believe that, to those emotionally unprepared, a 4-7 will look and feel like an 8-9.

-- Dave (, September 20, 1999.

Since my 10 is global thermalnuclear war, Im still hovering around the average 5 stage.

Yep. Still. Why?

Because Y2K isnt just one-size-fits-all. Simultaneous realities. Ranging from 0 to 9 all over the globe. Depends on where you are, and who/what/when/where/why/how the local denizens... draw the short straw. Sorta like the Hurricane Floyd example between Florida... who feared theyd be a 10... and North Carolina that became an 7-8ish... in some parts... yet a town or county away could be a 2.

Y2K repercussions will be an international patchwork quilt of how well the local communities/countries have prepared, or barring that, how well the local citizens/neighbors/families react to crisis, or to a lesser degree, hardship situations. Do they help? Or hinder? Do they pull together and share? Or rip apart? Are they part of the problem? Or part of the local solution?

Its all about personal CHOICES. Thats the larger Y2K lesson, IMHO, that we will either learn, or not learn.

Everyones choices will either ripple up or down the planetary interconnected chain of dominoes. Some will experience no change others extreme change. Its all relative.

Shift happens.


-- Diane J. Squire (, September 20, 1999.

Bill, assuming you mean the DC scale, then I feel we are most likely faced with a 5 to 7, but see anything from 3 to 8 as very plausible. (One of the percs to be substantially prepared is that I have allowed myself to stop trying to figure out what will really happen.)

I think your scale of 4 to 7 is most likely if problems develop gradually. In that case, the scenario I consider the most likely of all is Incessant Whining next year - People faced with steep replacement costs for appliances that have burned out from electrical irregularities or can't find any Nikes, and somehow don't equate all of these "hardships" with Y2K (so no reason to actually panic).

-- Brooks (, September 20, 1999.

4-7 seems most reasonable to me. However at a certain point y2k problems face a slippery slope, where stuff could just degenerate out of control. I have no idea where the slope gets slippery though.

-- coprolith (, September 20, 1999.

This all boils down to the economy. The U.S. will probably be pretty well prepared for the most part. Those people with rural electricity or an early bank failure may experience an 8 or 9 from their perspective while the rest of us are mildly uncomfortable. It is sorta like the man standing in a bucket of hot water with one foot and icy water with the other. They average out--kind of.

However! I agree with the many contributors that say this will all catch up with us economically. Problems in lesser developed countries will impact the supply line of goods and services as well as potentially impact the financial services industry. Call it cascading faults, I think is the term. That is why I think we are looking at a 4-6. I hope and pray that I am wrong.

Right now we will be coming off a pretty good economic year in 1999. We may not have that going forward into 2001. Just as remediated code builds in more errors and creates gotchas into the future, so will the economic issues.

Read Bill Urich's interview with the Y2K group in Napa last May. He lays out the economic and technical issues very clearly. I know him personally and respect his competence about the impact of Y2K.

-- Nancy (, September 20, 1999.

4-7 is a big zone.

Think about it: the impact will be 2-9, depending on where you are in each country, and may even be different in each state or city.

Actually, some people now are living in a state of "9" already, so y2k disruptions won't mean very much. Others, already in an "8" are going to see but little change as they temporarily slip to a 9.

In the US - each person will have different local effects, again ranging from one person's fire and loss of everything as their house burns, to another who may be killed in rioting, to another's fireplace and a warm cup of hot chocolate as they watch TV, to guy near Key West who walks outside. looks up and says "Yep, its New Year's day and the sun came up, again."

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, September 20, 1999.

I'd like to be hopefull (wouldn't we all) as my current preps are only a few weeks of food, water purification, and home defense.

Now, attempting to be realistic leads me to this: The "iron triangle" is very vulnerable. Too much lying; not much real, actual remediation there from what I am seeing. Major failures there definetly bring us to the top of the scale real quick. Minor failures there coupled with transportation failures bring us to the top of the scale pretty quick also.

If those three sectors make it in decent shape, then I would hope that to mean there will not be many failures elsewhere; on the premise that if embedded's do not fail critically in the power, telecomunications, banking industries, then they won't in other industries. Maybe that's a little Polly-ish, but it sounds good to me.

Side note: does anyone plan on being on or checking the 'Net on the 31st to see if the truth is reported from the far east first??

-- Brent James Bushardt (, September 20, 1999.

Nancy, I sort of think that I recall that Ulrich interview. Do you have a URL for it?

-- Lane Core Jr. (, September 20, 1999.

This will bring a lashing from Milne, but could problems be hidden from us, if they are spread out over time (1-3 months). I am sure systems crash everyday. I know y2k will bring a greater number of crashes all in the same timeframe, but if the power stays on, couldn't businesses limp through their crashes like they do today? Find alternative suppliers, pay higher prices for fuel and parts, but stay in business. This is my hope for a 1-3, but given the state of the World today, I am thinking 7-10 (including a possibility of a "nuclear incident" somewhere)

-- Bill (, September 20, 1999.

I think that in Y2K, if serious problems develop (especially with power distribution), it will result in loss of at least some life in places like the Southern California desert (because they have little or no water). The lawlessness just under the surface for some would also be a problem for other residents--who knows what could trigger the release of inhibitions in those people, or even for sure who those people are. Cold rural places still have enough people with woodstoves that they could all crowd into the limited heated places. Cold cities like New York would probably be in trouble. But then, I've never lived in that kind of densely populated place, and I don't know if lack of electrical or gas heat would be unsolvable without electricity (like the H2O problem in S. Cal. if other places can't help, though I have lived there) or if I just don't know enough to be able to imagine the solutions for megalopolises in harsh climates.

But even given tremendous loss of life (by current standards), the infrastructure, except a few of the computer components, is still there, which is how I could see one of the medium results occuring. If people are constructive, and not destructive, and work together even while deaths are occuring (which soldiers manage if they have courage, so civilians are capable of it too) or while they themselves are suffering, then I think things could be fixed. The loss of human life (the most valuable natural resource we have), and revenue would make a mess of the economy. But we have lots of stuff, and I think it would take a hundred years to become as poor as some Bedouins I've seen, or maybe even longer. Also, consider life in S. Yemen, and parts of Africa...we'd still have it better.

The missing factor is what people will choose to do--take care of number one, even by doing others wrong, or work with those who are willing to work together? Each choice will add up to the net effect on recovery efforts, and we'll see what was inside us as a nation in an incontrovertible way. Nations are stimulated by stressors if they're on their way up, and they crumble under them if they're rotting from within. As I read history. And barring invasion by superior forces.

Example of what can be lurking inside seemingly civilized people: There was really bad spring flooding/storm results north of here a while back. The repairmen were working 20+ hours a day. They had to occasionally rest, eat, and warm up. One man came out to accost a repairman who was leaving after working under harsh conditions for long hours--but without yet fixing this particular man's power. The man attacked the repairman, already exhausted, with a knife, and tried to hold him hostage. He was arrested, fortunately. But if things fall apart and stay fallen apart, selfish and evil people like that will be the cause, not the technological problem itself.

-- S. Kohl (, September 21, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ