Thursday, December 30, 1999

Guam will be the
nation’s Y2K test case

Kauai issues full Y2K alert

By Jean Christensen
Associated Press


HAGATNA, Guam -- After Typhoon Paka's 200 mph winds tore through this U.S. territory in 1997, thousands of residents went without water or electricity for three months.

It was a familiar drill for islanders, who regularly feel nature's powerful punch through storm or earthquake.

So even though many will mark the start of 2000 by singing a hymn in native Chamorro asking God to keep them safe, Guamanians are generally nonchalant about potential Y2K computer problems.

"If there was ever a place that was prepared for the problems that Y2K could bring, it would be Guam," said Ginger Cruz, a former government spokeswoman. "The fact that we might have some momentary interruption in services is not very troubling."

Guam's 152,000 residents will ring in the new year in ways reflecting the island's blend of Spanish, American and indigenous Chamorro cultures -- with church services, fiestas, concerts, and fireworks shows.

Guam officials and businesses also will enjoy the island's moment in the spotlight as the first piece of U.S. soil to enter 2000. The island's 7,000 hotel rooms are nearly filled to capacity for the occasion, mostly with tourists from Japan, 1,500 miles to the northwest.

The outgoing millennium saw Ferdinand Magellan arrive in 1521 and usher in three centuries of Spanish colonization. Spain finally ceded the 212-square-mile island to the United States as part of the 1898 Treaty of Paris.

In the 20th century, the Japanese occupied the island during World War II. After liberation, Guam's residents became U.S. citizens.

The century also saw the evolution of the island's military-based economy into a tourism-centered one. The visitor industry generates $1.5 billion a year and employs 42 percent of the work force.

This U.S. territory, located 3,700 miles west of Hawaii, promotes itself as "Where America's Day Begins," and Guam officials have readily accepted that the island will be a Y2K guinea pig of sorts for the U.S. mainland.

The start of 2000 on Guam will occur Friday at 4 a.m. Hawaii time, 6 a.m. Pacific Standard Time and 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has selected Guam, and its neighbor to the north, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, as staging areas for its "Day One" Y2K-monitoring project.

Word of any problems experienced by the island's residents will be relayed immediately to a White House command center nearly 8,000 miles away, giving federal officials a 15-hour advance notice of what the rest of the nation may experience.

The Interior Department has overseen a $29 million federal appropriation for Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and other territories to correct Y2K computer problems.

Nevertheless, the federal government has identified several programs on Guam and other U.S. territories that are not fully Y2K-ready, including those that serve welfare, food stamp and Medicaid recipients.

Gil Shinohara, chief of staff to Gov. Carl Gutierrez, said contingency plans are in place should any problems arise.

Guam's power, water and phone companies are run through autonomous territorial agencies and officials don't expect any Y2K-related interruptions of these essential services.

The hype surrounding the occasion has given rise to a peculiar precautionary holiday gesture, with neighbors and friends exchanging Y2K gift baskets.

The typical basket contains a flashlight, batteries, bottled water, a Meal Ready-to-Eat, candy and other snacks, but is more a source of amusement for disaster-ready islanders than anything else, Shinohara said.

Kauai issues full Y2K
alert for New Year’s Eve

By Star-Bulletin staff


LIHUE -- Kauai County will be on Y2K "full alert" on New Year's Eve, according to Mayor Maryanne Kusaka.

Off-island vacations for department heads and key personnel "have been disallowed," the mayor said in a news release yesterday.

Under the plan:

Bullet The mayor herself will be on "stand-by."

Bullet Generators have been positioned to keep water pumps running in the event of a power failure. Ten employees will be on paid stand-by. Water Engineer Ernest Lau will be on duty at the County Emergency Operating Center.

Bullet Fourteen generators are ready to keep traffic signals operating and sewage plants flowing.

Bullet The police department will have 46 officers working New Year's Eve, triple the usual number. If the 911 and telephone systems fail, cellular phones will be used as a backup.

Bullet The fire department will have 40 fire fighters on duty. An additional supply of oxygen has been provided to each station to aid residents who have breathing problems caused by fireworks smoke.

Bullet The finance department will be on alert to provide funds for any emergency purchases required.

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