by Karen Lyncoln
For the Pathfinder
December 24, 1998
"If Bonneville Power Authority can get the power to us, we can get the power to you," said Jack Hunt, representing the Missoula Electric Cooperative, at the December 7th meeting of the Seeley Lake Community Preparedness Group.
There have been recent reports in the media of the possibility of "cascading" power failures caused by the Y2k computer glitch in which on January 1, 2000, computers and embedded chips will read the date as January 1, 1900, and shut down. "Rolling brown outs", where there is not enough power to meet the demand, have also been cited. Lights go dim but do not go out completely.
Hunt said that Y2k would not be a significant problem for MEC because its distribution operation has a fully manual backup system, as does Bonneville Power Authority, the primary source of electricity for MEC. In addition, each organization has developed contingency plans for power failures and brown outs.
Hunt added that he was more concerned about storms or terrorists taking advantage of the Y2k scare as possible reasons for interruptions in the power supply than computer problems. Hunt asked people to call MEC if they see people around lines or substations that shouldn't be there. Hunt said that he thought that power was more likely to be on January 1, 2000, threat because of the security measures that power generators and distributors will provide during that time.
MEC will assist residents who would like to hook up their own generators, for whatever reason. Customers should call MEC to schedule a free review of what needs to be done and what equipment is required. "If you do it, let us help you," said Hunt, who also recommended that generators by hooked up by professional electricians.
Hunt noted that he could not guarantee that power services would not be interrupted during the turning of the century but said that he did not think that the problems would be severe or long-term. The Current Flashes newsletter of the MEC will continue to keep customers up to date on Y2k compliance issues and the advisability of buying alternative energy sources.
The next meeting of the Community Preparedness Group will be on Monday, January 11, 1999, at 7:00 PM in the Multi-purpose Room at Seeley Lake Elementary School. Paul Torok of the Seeley Lake Water District will discuss water and sanitation issues and possible Y2k effects on the city water distribution system and well water systems, how to purify drinking water, and alternative ways to dispose of human wastes if water supplies are interrupted.
Additional copies of the Y2k CPR booklet are available at the Missoula County Library at Seeley-Swan High School or at the next meeting.