Speakers: Miss-Lou was Y2K prepared

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2000

The full impact of the public’s Y2K worries hit Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff as he wheeled his cart through Natchez Market just before New Year’s.

&uot;My wife hadn’t been to the store in a while, so my cart was pretty full,&uot;&160;Huff told those at the Natchez Chamber of Commerce’s Friday meeting. &uot;People kept coming up to me all nervous, asking ‘Do you know something we don’t?’ &uot;

But when the dust settled — or in the Miss-Lou’s case, when the fog lifted — New Year’s caused few snafus. And at the chamber’s First Friday program, members got the inside scoop on preparations local agencies and businesses made to help ensure it turned out that way. In 1998, emergency management agencies throughout the nation were fully briefed on potential Y2K problems, said Adams County Civil Defense Director George Souderes.

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&uot;We learned what could go wrong, and it scared the heck out of me,&uot;&160;Souderes said. &uot;Fortunately, most of that didn’t happen.&uot;

Since then, Souderes regularly spoke to local groups about how to prepare for Y2K. In November, his staff met with representatives of local utilities, hospitals, transportation companies, the food industry and other sectors to make sure they were ready.

Supermarket Operations — parent company of Natchez Markets 1 and 2, Piggly Wiggly in Natchez and Ferriday Market — spent $250,000 in the last half of 1999 to install Y2K-compliant checkouts.

&uot;It was something we needed to do anyway,&uot;&160;said Barry Loy, manager of Natchez Market No. 1.

Supermarket Operations’ stores also bought 10 to 20 extra pallets of bottled water in anticipation of the new year. &uot;But I&160;didn’t buy any myself,&uot;&160;Loy said, joking that if he needed some in a crisis &uot;I&160;have a key to the store.&uot;

Louisiana Central Bank tested its computer systems thoroughly – a must, since Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. inspectors made regular Y2K checks, said President Cliff Merritt.

&uot;If something did go wrong, we know how to run this bank with a piece of paper,&uot;&160;he said.

But the problem Merritt was most worried about was people running into bank branches to withdraw large amounts of money just before the new year.

&uot;Law enforcement would have had a monumental task, with all that money out on the street,&uot;&160;Merritt said. &uot;But common sense prevailed.&uot;

If nothing else, Y2K preparations made everyone realize how dependant businesses and agencies now are on computers and on each other, Huff said.