Y2K bug still may lurk, say experts

Some problems seen as possible today, 2000's first weekday

January 03, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

As the Baltimore area and the rest of the world heaved a collective sigh of relief at the lack of major Y2K computer problems over the weekend, experts warned that the ballyhooed bug might rear its head in some places today, the first weekday of 2000.

Many businesses and government agencies that were closed or short-staffed over the weekend will be back to full operations, creating the possibility that computer gremlins that lay dormant for the first two days of the new year could show up today and in coming days.

"I think we will probably find some small glitches, particularly in smaller organizations that may not have done any preparations at all," said John A. Koskinen, the top Y2K adviser to the Clinton administration. "There are a large number of those."

However, no major Y2K-related problems have been reported in Maryland, and area officials said they expected this good fortune to hold up during the workweek. The Y2K bug arises when computers mistakenly identify the year 2000 as 1900.

"If there are going to be any problems, I expect they may occur on the first full business day," said Johns Hopkins Hospital spokesman Gary M. Stephenson. "But we're not anticipating any problems."

Officials with the Baltimore Police Department, State Highway Administration and Baltimore-Washington International Airport said they expected no problems and planned no unusual precautions for today.

Spokeswomen for the highway administration and the airport said more congestion than normal might occur today, because of increased travel at the end of the holiday season.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Karl Neddenien said things were expected to go smoothly for the utility today, thanks in no small part to the unseasonably warm weather.

He said the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Lusby was operating normally.

"For us, it will be business as usual," Neddenien said.

Early closing of Y2K centers

Business has been so usual that the state Emergency Management Agency closed its scheduled Y2K-readiness operations Saturday night. Officials at the University of Maryland Medical Center are thinking about shutting down its Y2K command center earlier than Wednesday's planned close, a spokeswoman said.

Denis Kelley, a spokesman for TRG Networking Inc., a Towson computer-network company, said workers returning to their office computers for the new year should encounter few or no Y2K-related problems today and in days to come.

"Some people may have to re-key in some data, but cases like that are going to be few and far between," Kelley said.

Major U.S. financial exchanges prepared to open today, among the first in the world to do so. Many countries have declared today a national holiday.

"We haven't heard anything about problems at financial markets either in the United States or overseas," said Margaret Draper, spokeswoman for the Securities Industry Association.

No problems in Mideast

Stock markets in Kuwait and Egypt, which were among the first to open in 2000, reported no signs of Y2K computer problems yesterday. Italy's stock market ran a test yesterday without any problems, a day before it opens.

"We're very confident," said Joe Carrier, director of compliance for T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. in Baltimore. "We've gotten to all the things we were really concerned about. Things could not have broken better with this so far, as far as we're concerned."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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