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As the New Year dawns, Y2K proves a bug with no bite

By Laura Vozzella, Associated Press, 01/01/00

BOSTON -- Excitement and anxiety melted into relief and celebration in Massachusetts as the Year 2000 rolled around without any of the feared catastrophes coming to pass.

 RELATED COVERAGE

* Massachusetts officials watching New Year underground

Trespassers are Islanders' main concern

NANTUCKET - Computer-crash fears were for others. On posh Nantucket Island, the biggest New Year's worry was whether tourists would trespass on private waterfront property as they witnessed the first dawn of the century.

"The main thing is, some of the elderly people who live in the area are worried about having crowds on their lawns and porches," First Selectman Arthur Desrocher said. "They don't want them going on their front porches and all over their lawns."

Nantucket planned to deploy all 35 of its police and reserve officers overnight, up from the three or four assigned to a normal shift, Desrocher said.

The island of about 8,500 year-round residents has seen its population swell in recent days to summer peak levels of about 40,000, with hotels and restaurants booked solid, Desrocher said.

In addition to its usual amenities of cute inns and cobblestone streets, the island offered New Year's tourists a chance to see the century dawn before almost anyone else in America.

Sunlight was to hit the Nantucket village of Siasconset at 7:06 a.m. -- just two minutes behind Lubec, Maine, which has first-sunrise-in-the-nation bragging rights.

Nantucket Selectman Charles Gardner, 66, said New Year's Eve partying won't keep him from taking in the first sunrise.

"I'll see the new year in, take a nap, and then be up for the first light," he said.

Bankers stay late to write out transactions

GLOUCESTER - To prepare for the new millennium, bankers at the Cape Ann Savings Banks were staying late and going back in time.

Nancy Roberts, vice president for operations, said a volunteer crew of 25 were staying until about 11 p.m. to transcribe the day's transactions onto old-fashioned ledger cards, just in case.

"We will be ready, come what may," said Roberts.

Roberts, 62, of Essex, has worked for the bank for 35 years and plans to retire in July, but wanted to work through the year 2000.

After more than two years of working to prevent any problems related to the computer changeover to the year 2000, she said she wanted to see it through.

"It's almost a challenge now, we just have to get through it," she said.

Workers were inviting their spouses to join them at the bank for a buffet dinner.

While some of the younger employees were still hoping to make it to parties by midnight, Roberts said she would be heading home.

She planned to return to the bank in the morning to check on the computers. Although she said she didn't expect any problems, the written transactions would allow them to give the customers their latest balances, even if the computers are off-line come Monday.



   

At the stroke of midnight, fireworks soared over Boston Harbor, welcoming the new year to one of America's oldest cities in a shower of light and a drumroll of thunder, treating an estimated one million First Night revelers.

"The city's in a buzz like I've never seen before," said Ana Rabicoff of Boston, surveying the crowds at Faneuil Hall. "First Night is always exciting, but this is spectacular."

There was less excitement among the officials who spent the day in an underground, Cold War-era bunkers, waiting for the New Year's arrival -- and that's just what they wanted.

"The lights are still on, the phone still works. All is right with the world," said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, shortly after midnight.

Logan International Airport spokeswoman Joey Cuzzi said the New Year brought none of the computer-related Y2K problems some had feared.

"It's all systems go, everything's great so far," Cuzzi said shortly after midnight.

Officials overseeing New England's power grid also reported no initial problems, as did federal crisis officials gathered in a bunker in Maynard.

In Boston, Steve Morash of the Boston Emergency Management Operations said shortly after midnight that all seemed to be working: traffic signals were up, the water and sewer systems were working normally and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was running.

Morash estimated the number of First Night revelers at more than one million.

The midnight festivities capped a day of celebration across the state.

In Worcester and Boston, fireworks displays were held early in the evening, in addition to the midnight display. Boston's 7 p.m. show, dubbed "Kid's Countdown," was designed to allow children to see the spectacle before their bedtimes, and was in synch with the arrival of the New Year in London.

Springfield's early events included an interfaith service at Old First Church, which drew several thousand people.

At the Statehouse in Boston, men and women dressed in colonial garb took part in noontime festivities that included a rifle salute and ringing of a Liberty Bell replica.

By evening, throngs of revelers crammed inside the Statehouse to warm up with hot chocolate. Officials held the building open to the public until midnight.

During the day, about 200 people representing state agencies and utilities hunkered down in the state's underground bunker in Framingham, while about 35 officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent the night in an old Cold War bomb shelter in Maynard.

Officials in both places monitored power grids, water supplies and anything else that could possibly be affected by Y2K computer problems.

State troopers were posted in highway tunnels to watch out for terrorists. Just a day earlier, five men were arrested in Boston and questioned about possible links to Algerian terrorists.

The threats seemed a little closer to home for Boston cab driver Jim Moynihan. He said the biggest risk he faced was having a tipsy fare throw up in his cab.

Still, Moynihan said he volunteered to work on New Year's Eve, and even planned to pop a bottle of Dom Perignon with a lucky patron.

"I think people will be having a lot of fun tonight -- it's entertainment," he said. "I'll get beautiful girls who wouldn't normally get in a car with me fighting to get in my cab."

Hampden County provided free cab service to 10 area cities through the Dial-a-Cab program. More than 100 revelers had called for rides by 11 p.m., said Connie Pajak, one of two phone operators taking calls at the dispatcher's office at Yellow Cab in Springfield.

The 17-story Ritz-Carlton Hotel guarded against potential Y2K ups and down with three special guests: an elevator company president and two technicians.

Along with complimentary shampoo and shower caps, guests at the Copley Square Hotel found flashlights in their rooms. The hotel planned to hold its elevators at lobby level for 10 minutes at midnight.

The MBTA, too, halted operations briefly at midnight -- just in case. General Manager Bob Prince spent the night riding trains to prove they were safe, and an MBTA spokesman reported no problems shortly after midnight.

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Jane Garvey, of Amherst, showed the nation's airways were safe by flying in a jet as Greenwich Mean Time struck midnight.

Terry Demers of Ludlow celebrated the millennium surrounded by good luck photographs of her nine grandchildren at a night Bingo game at St. Stanislaus Basilica in Chicopee.

"It beats staying home alone," Demers told The Union News of Springfield.

About 400 people showed up for the New year's game, said Ralph Paci, St. Stanislaus' bookkeeper. The game raised more than $2,000 for the church school.



 


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