The Clinton Fire Department plans to take an unusual precaution on New Year’s Eve in hopes of heading off any potential Y-2-K troubles that may be inside the electronics of the fire engines and other vehicles. Clinton Fire Chief Russ Luckritz (LUKE-ritz) says the engines will be started before midnight and left running as a precaution until after midnight, shut off, then restarted. Chief Luckritz says the department also has equipment to generate power and is working with the Clinton Police Department to have a fuel tanker truck on stand-by for New Year’s Eve.
There was a lot of hype nine months ago about Iowa couples who were going to try and have the first baby of the year two-thousand — but there’s no baby boom yet. A spokesman for two of Iowa’s largest hospitals says they’re seeing about a dozen births a day — which is nothing unusual. Tim Hackbart is spokesman for Iowa Lutheran Hospital and Iowa Methodist Medical Center, both in Des Moines. He says there’ll be no “cheaters” allowed who try to fudge the birthdate to win the acclaim of being the first or last babies of the century. He says no labor inducements or C-sections will be done until after January first unless it’s a medical emergency. Hackbart says the first baby born at the hospitals will get an appropriate welcome — gifts, a plaque and a savings bond. Hackbart says the hospital has also printed up batches of baby caps that read “I’m a Millennium Baby!” which will be adorning babies born throughout next month. Iowa Methodist Medical Center gained national attention two years ago for being the birthplace of the world’s first set of surviving septuplets — born to Bobbi McCaughey (McCoy) of Carlisle.
The distributors that supply gasoline to the state are preparing for a last minute run as people top off the tank or buy extra gas to power generators for possible Y-2-K problems. Department of Natural Resources spokesman David Downing says they hope people won’t get too carried away.Downing says the normal nationwide consumption of oil for gas production is eight-million barrels, but this month consumption is well over nine-million as retailers stock up. Downing says refineries are taking steps to keep retailers from hoarding gas as they will shut down before January 1st and penalize retailers as much as 20 cents a gallon for gas ordered during the shut down. Downing says the pipelines are also shutting down as a safety precaution for any Y-2-K bugs that might be in the pipeline controls.Downing says the two major pipelines that supply gas to Iowa will shut down prior to January 1st and then open for business again in early January. He says gas prices have gone up as demand increases for travel this Christmas weekend.Downing says gas prices could spike up around New Year’s Day as people siphon off supplies. He says we could see a drop in price if New Year’s Eve passes uneventfully and retailers and consumers are full up with reserve gas.
State officials will not only be watching to see that vital services move along without a hitch New Year’s Eve, they’ll also be practicing a little rumor control. State Emergency Management Director Ellen Gordon says they’ll have a rumor control center set up at Camp Dodge along with other Y2K preparations. She says they’ll rely on local government agencies to relay information to the center and the state will then pass it on.Gordon says it’s important for you to call local government officials with concerns first. She wants to avoid problems by having the phone lines to the state control center jammed.Gordon says they hope to put rumors to rest early before they get far enough to create any panic among Iowans.
Workers in Farm Service Agency offices around the state are installing new computer software to fix a Y-2-K computer glitch. Bob Sukup the Farm Service Agency’s state director, says they found a millennium bug in the computer program which calculates special payments that about 98-thousand Iowa farmers were eligible for.Sukup says farmers payments will NOT be affected, even if the corrective software — known as 4-24 — isn’t installed.
With New Year’s Eve only ten days away, many Iowans may find themselves scraping the bottom of the wine barrel when it comes to bubbly. Fine champagnes are selling out statewide, according to the general manager of one of Iowa’s largest wine and champagne distributors.Brian Emerson of Quality Wine Company in Des Moines says most of his champagne supply came in this summer and 75-percent of it was gone by November first. He says the coming of the year two-thousand is creating a frenzy of champagne buyers.Emerson says people who want to buy a bottle to celebrate with next weekend had better get to the store soon, or there’ll be nothing left but the really cheap stuff — if that.He says there’s no question this will be THE biggest year ever for champagne sales in Iowa.
Governor Vilsack says the state has undergone over two-years-worth of Y-2-K preparation, and he expects no calamities when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.Vilsack will be at the Iowa National Guard’s STARC Armory on New Year’s Eve, along with about 100 top state officials who will monitor the date change and any potential problems.Vilsack says crucial private sector businesses like electric and phone utlities will have officials on hand at the Guard’s armory, too, on New Year’s Eve. The state has spent over 30-million dollars to re-work computer programs to get rid of the millennium bug.
The agency which supplies 26 Iowa hospitals with a vital fluid is prepared for virtually any disaster on New Year’s Eve. The Blood Center of Central Iowa has gone well beyond making sure its computers are Y-2-K compliant and is readying for whatever may happen — which officials hope is nothing.Jackie Cacciatore is spokeswoman for the Des Moines-based blood center, which is setting up communications with hospitals via e-mail and cell phone, in addition to ham radio. She says the center wants to have a plan in place that could deal with any medical situation.She says the biggest concern is having enough donors to handle the everyday needs of the facility — and urges donors to call & schedule appointments either now or through mid-January. The center serves 22 central Iowa counties.
U-S West officials expect New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to be THE busiest calling days in Iowa history. The telecommunications giant is warning people there may be delays in getting a dial tone that night around midnight — but it’ll be due to a heavy load, not Y-2-K.U-S West spokeswoman Lynn Gipple says the busiest times are expected to be in the two hours around midnight and after 8 a-m on New Year’s Day. Gipple hopes customers will make an effort to stay off of their phones during those peak hours.Gipple says lives could be placed at risk by people who grab their phone just to see if there’s a dialtone — or worse — by people who call 9-1-1 just to ensure the service is still working.She says it’s a good idea to have a list handy of the seven-digit non-emergency numbers for police, fire and medical services — just in case 9-1-1 service is unavailable.
State and federal banking officials moved again today to assure Iowans their money will be safe from any Y2K problems come January 1st. Officials met with reporters today after an elderly woman cashed in a ten-thousand dollar certificate of deposit and put it in her safe deposit box. Iowa Bankers Association President, John Sorenson, says the unidentified woman is losing interest on the money every day. Sorenson says they’ve worked hard to make banks Y2K ready.Sorenson says there are hundreds of scams out there ready to take advantage of millennium bug concerns. As an example, one company is selling books in which you can hide your money. He says the only problem is that the company mails you the book and then knows your address and which book contains the money. Sorenson says you don’t need to put your money in a book or bury it in the back yard.Jeff Jensen is an officer with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Jensen says the banks, credit unions and savings and loans they oversee have actually been compliant or near compliant since late 1998.Jensen too says they expect a smooth transition into the New Year. Jensen says the Fed Reserve will double the amount of cash it has on hand to supply institutions. He says they’re encouraging everyone to not take out large amounts of money.