All ready for Y2K

December 21, 1999

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

Photo by JOE CROCETTA / Staff Photographer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - If the dictionary had a definition of what it means to be Y2K ready, it would show a picture of the Patrick Cowden family of Mercersburg.

The family of six - Patrick, his wife, Jill, and their four daughters ages 6-17 - have spent much of the last year getting their home ready for anything Y2K might lay upon the planet at midnight Jan. 1, 2000, the second when doomsayers and even some experts say many computers will crash.

It's supposed to happen if computers read Jan. 1, 2000 as Jan. 1, 1900. Under that scenario, important functions governed by computers will cease to work, although most governments and businesses now say they've fixed the problem and are predicting no major disruptions.


But even the most optimistic officials say it makes sense to stock up on necessities such as those you'd gather for a major snowstorm, just in case there are some Y2K glitches.

The Cowdens began thinking about the possibility more than a year ago, when word that there might be a problem first began to surface.

"We started to think about what we would need in our lives, for ourselves and the children," Jill Cowden said.

So the family started to prepare. They canned hundreds of jars of fruits, vegetables, chicken, turkey, pork, hamburger patties, meatballs and jams and jellies.

Patrick Cowden is hooking up a 7,500-watt, gas-powered generator to the electrical junction box in his house. It will run electricity to important appliances like the freezer and refrigerator and the two automatic pellet stoves that heat the house.

The family went on shopping sprees and soon had a basement room chock-full of plastic buckets filled with bulk flour, rice, pasta, dried milk, eggs and potatoes.

Patrick Cowden has dried pounds of beef jerky made from his own recipe.

"We have a lot of food, probably enough to last us five to six months," Jill Cowden said.

They even stocked up on dog food to ensure that the family's three Labrador retrievers make it through.

Water? There's an in-ground swimming pool in the back yard filled and chlorinated. Taps in the house have been fitted with filters.

The Cowdens have stocked up on toothpaste, soap and bathroom supplies. "We have enough toilet paper to wrap around the Statue of Liberty," Patrick said.

Jill has made shopping trips to stores that cater to Amish folk to buy lanterns and cast iron cookware to use on the two propane gas grills the family bought to prepare meals on. There are four 100-gallon propane tanks in back of the house.

There is also a gas log campfire that Patrick set up on the patio so the children can roast marshmallows and s'mores.

Jill told the children to bring home all of their books on the last day of school before the holiday break so they can keep up with their studies in case the schools stay closed. "I can home-school them if I have to," she said.

The Cowdens bought cell phones in case the regular ones quit working.

They have also stocked up on ammunition, Jill said. "We've seen what disasters can do," she said.

"If nothing happens we haven't lost anything. We can still use everything we have here and we won't have to go shopping for a long time," Jill said.

"This isn't so much about preparing food, but showing our children that there's a different way of life, a lesson that we have responsibilities as a family and we have to work together," she said.

"If there is a minimal disturbance our children will learn that life doesn't exist just around electronics, that as a family we can survive by talking, playing and working together."

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