Originally created 01/01/00

Y2K arrives in Augusta with few glitches



The biggest worries at Georgia Power Co.'s operations headquarters Friday night were typical -- annoying squirrels and careless drivers, not Y2K.

Employees expected a long, boring night as clocks turned past midnight to Jan. 1, 2000, and it proved true.

Since 1996, the company, a subsidiary of Southern Co., has been working on the potential Y2K chaos, spending $90 million in Georgia, said Charles Mills, Georgia Power area manager for the Evans office.

At 7 p.m., the only problem spot was in Washington. Luther Dodgen, distribution operator and the man who has solved any power problems most nights for the past 17 years, blamed an animal. Probably a squirrel.

At Georgia Power headquarters on North Leg Road, it was a quiet evening. Game shows had replaced the Y2K coverage on a television in the corner of the operations center -- a mid-sized room with several computer stations and three walls covered with maps of the entire Georgia Power coverage area for this region.

It wasn't talk of Y2K fears but of neighbors' and friends' questions about the power after midnight that led to funny stories among the few employees on duty Friday night. If they worried about anything, it was all the people in downtown Augusta for the Celebrate 2000 party -- worries that one or more of those partiers might take out a power pole.

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The Celebrate 2000 New Year's Eve Street Party's early hours were uneventful. The first major incident occurred at about 10:15 p.m., when two juveniles found their way to the roof of a building at 10th and Broad streets and began throwing objects down on the crowd, said Capt. Ray Myers of the Richmond County Sheriff's Department.

"They'll probably be the first two of the new millennium to go to jail," Capt. Myers said.

An aerial truck from the Richmond County Fire Department was called in, but the juveniles came down own on their own.

The youths were not arrested and were ordered to leave the area.

Police also arrested a man who was accused of throwing bottles from a private balcony at 11th and Broad streets.

The only other actions by police were to escort two or three inebriated people from the party, said Richmond County sheriff's Chief Deputy Ronald Strength.

"It was no trouble at all," he said.

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Just before midnight, a glitch hit in the neonatal intensive care unit at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics. The television the staff had gathered around to watch the ball drop fuzzed out.

"This is going to be the only Y2K glitch we get," said Dwain Shaw, year 2000 project director at MCG.

He was right. The hour passed, and nothing happened at any Augusta-area hospital.

"It seems like all is well in the world," said Scott Echelberger, senior assistant hospital director at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics.

One Web site did report five medical and computer equipment failures in Malaysia and one in Greece, but none of the equipment is used by MCG or any other Augusta hospital. At Doctors Hospital, there are about 20 pieces of equipment -- such as fax machines -- that had to have the date reset manually after midnight, but none of them affected patient care, said Heyward Wells, Y2K coordinator at Doctors. Just in case, biomedical engineers were stationed in all of the critical care areas -- intensive care, the Burn Center, and the nursery -- to monitor equipment, Mr. Wells said.

At St. Joseph Hospital, 25 to 30 staff members went room to room "itemizing the patients and what kind of equipment they're on," said Cristina Thomas, chief information officer at St. Joseph. St. Joseph was following a five-page plan that spelled out, "sometimes minute by minute," the Y2K plan, Ms. Thomas said.

University had its engineers roaming the hallways, but there was a general sense of confidence that all the planning had paid off, said Kyle Howell, vice president for support and facility services.

"Not a light blinked, and the water's still running," said Rebecca Sylvester, University Hospital spokeswoman.