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Panhandle readies for Y2K

November 24, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - While Eastern Panhandle emergency management officials continue to say they don't expect any Y2K computer problems on New Year's Eve, they are taking precautions just in case.

In Jefferson County, Office of Emergency Services Director Darrell Penwell said he would like each of the Jefferson County Commissioners to take turns being on call New Year's Eve in case any major decisions need to be made.

Some computers, particularly older systems, are programmed to recognize only the last two digits in a date, so 2000 may be misinterpreted as 1900.

Problems most feared are those in which utilities could be affected by computer shutdowns.

Penwell said it is important to have a commissioner on call in case any situation involves an emergency allocation of funds.

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At the county's 911 center, a backup generator is in place in case of power outages, Penwell said. Allegheny Power has said it expects no problems delivering electricity.

Emergency management workers have been trying to locate people with certain medical conditions - ones requiring oxygen pumps, for instance. If there are any power outages or other problems, workers and volunteers will be able to check on those people to make sure they are all right, Penwell said.

Jefferson County water systems appear to be ready for Y2K, and Penwell said his office knows what kind of help departments need if any problems arise.

In Berkeley County, three water companies will be able to provide water for up to three days in the face of any power outages, said Berkeley County Office of Emergency Services Director Steve Allen.

The Opequon, Berkeley County, and Hedgesville public service districts have elevated water tanks. That means gravity creates the line pressure needed to deliver water to homes, Allen said.

Although electric pumps are needed to refill the tanks, there is enough water in them to last for three days, Allen said.

Allen said he will have extra emergency management workers on duty New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in case there are problems.

"If we get through the first six hours, I will feel comfortable," he said. "By and large, I don't think you will see major problems."

If problems arise, however, he will consider bringing in extra staff, he said.

State emergency management officials have said they believe there will be few Y2K-related problems in West Virginia.

The banking industry, transportation systems, medical treatment facilities and other services appear to be ready, said state Office of Emergency Services director John Pack.

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