Y2k fear fades

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Story last updated at 11:52 p.m. on Tuesday, September 21, 1999

Y2K fear fades Preparations help to quell concerns

By P. Douglas Filaroski Times-Union staff writer

Not too long ago, Cindy Barfield might have wished you luck in your search for a woodstove. People worried about power outages from the Y2K bug made such items hard to come by.

These days, the manager of Fans & Stove of Five Points in Jacksonville can offer a choice of models in nearly every price range.

''Earlier this year, I was getting one or two calls a day from people worried about Y2K,'' Barfield said. ''Now, it's nothing. . . . I just hope I don't get stuck with all these stoves.''

Barfield is not alone in noticing a Y-2-Kalm before the approaching millennium. Tomorrow, there will be 100 days to go until 2000, and the fervor over possible failures from computers not programmed for the year 2000 seems to have subsided.

Fewer Americans are visiting Y2K Web sites, attending community preparedness meetings and stocking up for possible power failures, bank errors and food shortages, polls find.

One published by Zogby International last month showed about 50 percent of Americans were not concerned about the possible ramifications of Y2K. About 23 percent didn't plan to take even minor precautions.

That compares to a Gallup Poll in December that found that a majority, 56 percent, were concerned about problems from the millennium bug. About 85 percent predicted problems ahead.

The shift in attitudes seems to have occurred subtly throughout the year. At Neptune Baptist Church, the Rev. Tom Berry said when a Y2K preparedness group formed in January, it had 35 people at its monthly meetings.

''We started by offering preparation information, networking with other groups, and sharing information,'' Berry said. Eventually, fewer people began showing up. In June, Berry discontinued the meetings.

''I think their anxiety was addressed,'' Berry said. ''[Our] conclusion was there may be a small hiccup. . . . But it's not going to be as catastrophic as a lot of people thought it would be.''

The American Red Cross began offering Y2K advice on its Web site and developed a Y2K preparedness brochure in January because of the number of questions it was receiving, spokesman Darren Irby said.

Lately, the agency is handing out far fewer brochures and receiving fewer e-mail questions on its Web site, Irby said.

That doesn't mean people shouldn't be concerned, Irby said. No one knows for sure what will happen when New Year's Day arrives, and the agency continues to advise people to prepare as they would for a natural disaster - by buying extra food, batteries, first-aid supplies and water.

Some say the perceived calm over Y2K is due to overly optimistic forecasts from the government and the media's portrayal of Y2K preparedness as for kooks.

A volunteer for a Y2K-related Web site, The Cassandra Project, said the site is receiving fewer hits and e-mails but expected activity to pick back up toward the end of the year.

Vikki Crosby of Macclenny gained national attention this year for her diligence in preparing for Y2K. After an article in the Times-Union, Crosby appeared on NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.

Crosby had bought two generators and six cords of wood; piled boxes of canned goods and paper products high inside her house; and planned to use a water well and a garden when the disaster strikes.

''What I expect is the 1900s all over again,'' Crosby said in February, when she predicted a blackout scenario. ''We're ready to go down for a year or more.''

Today, the wife and businesswoman remains concerned but said her preparations have nearly stopped. Asked about her one-year blackout forecast, Crosby seemed to have softened:

''I know my power company said it was going to be ready. I don't know,'' Crosby said. ''If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.''

A Y2K group she formed stopped meeting Sundays because Crosby said she began opening her restaurant that day. ''I think the ones that were preparing are pretty much prepared. The ones that weren't, weren't going to anyway.''

Quieter nerves may be justified, according to The GartnerGroup, a Stamford, Conn., company considered among the leading authorities in the world on Y2K compliance. The company has 800 analysts studying the problem in 80 locations around the globe.

A company report in August noted there had been ''significant'' progress during the year by governments and industries in 17 industrialized countries, including the United States.

The group said many companies and governments postponed investments in e-commerce to make themselves Y2K compliant.

The mood depicted in polls seemed to be mirrored by shoppers walking around The Avenues mall recently. Only about half said they were concerned enough to do something to prepare.

James Smith, 18, said he doesn't trust the authorities who say everything is going to be OK. ''How do they know? That's how the government works. They want to calm people down.''

Smith said he will probably stock up on food, take extra cash out of the bank and take one other important precaution. ''I know I'm not going to be in a plane,'' he said.

Greg Goodman, 45, had the opposite attitude. ''I'm not concerned about it at all,'' Goodman said of the Y2K bug.

''The only thing I wonder is: Whoever invented the computer - if they were so intelligent, why couldn't they foresee this?''


-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), September 22, 1999


Boy, that Greg Goodman from the report is a real Einstein isn't he...

growlin' at the STUPID human...

The Dog

-- Dog (Desert Dog@-sand.com), September 22, 1999.


You in Jacksonville? Front page story this morning. There's also another article about the Navy's critical systems Y2K readiness. It says that ALL mission critical systems are remediated and have been tested, it also says 97% of all other systems are ready to go. The Navy has 17 ships docked at Mayport.


-- Deano (deano@luvthebeach.com), September 22, 1999.

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