Public braced for Y2K 20 years ago

Published 9:26 am Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Just 20 years ago, people around the world were bracing for the year 2000.

On Dec. 31, 1999, The Advocate-Messenger’s front page was filled with international, national and local stories about how people were preparing for Y2K and how they were “hopeful that years of preparations and billions of dollars spent to fix a simple but widespread computer bug would avert cyber-chaos,” according to an Associated Press story.

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Seaports around the world were closed, jets were grounded and even Disneyland’s Matterhorn roller coaster was planning to shut down to avoid any glitches in their systems because of the rollover to the year 2000.

The potential problem was that “some computers would misread the year 2000 as 1900, causing systems to shut down,” the article said.

In Danville, many shoppers were stocking up on bread, canned food, bottled water and batteries, in anticipation of the worst case scenario.

During the week, people had gone to the Butternut Bread store and cleaned out the shelves. The manager, John Thompson, said sales had been up 170 percent.

“I’d compare it to a snow scare. But usually a snow scare only lasts one day. This has lasted for a week,” Thompson said.

Grocery stores in surrounding counties were also reporting more sales in canned vegetables, pet food, peanut butter and tuna fish.

A manager at Slone’s Signature Market noted that people were stocking up on non-perishable items, instead of things like milk that had expiration dates.

Also, Kroger in Danville had used the Y2K warnings as a sales pitch, advertising a millennium pack, which contained cans of corn, green beans and peas.

William David King of Danville, was a 15-year-old Boyle County High School student who raised chickens. He called them, “Y2K Laying Hens.”

King said he wanted to  make sure everyone had something to eat for breakfast.

“Everybody is scared that the electric is going to go out. They just want to make sure they have something to eat in case.”

King had been advertising his Y2K hens in feed stores, veterinary clinics and bulletin boards all over the country.

In international news from AP wire service, from Tonga to Samoa — the World Peace Bell, in Newport, Kentucky, was set to toll a welcome with a wish for world peace. Organizers of the Ring in 2000 celebration expected about 50,000 people to visit the bell. Miss American, Heather French, was also going to sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” as the Ohio River city across from Cincinnati greeted 2000 at midnight.