PORTLAND — Maine Gov. Angus King has urged residents to prepare for Y2K like a winter storm: It’s a good idea to have extra supplies on hand but there is no reason to clear the grocery store shelves.
And most Mainers seem to be heeding his advice, stocking up on a few items without getting carried away.
“I was not a Boy Scout, but they always say you have to be prepared,” Larry Dyke, 51, said as he emerged from the Shaw’s at Portland’s Westgate Shopping Center with 4 gallons of water in his cart.
Bottled water has been the most popular item for stockpiling, said David Walsh, general manager at the Westgate Shaw’s. He said the store has ordered extra. “We won’t run out,” he said confidently.
Walsh doesn’t expect a run on water because people aren’t hoarding. “For the most part, everyone has been pretty calm,” Walsh said.
At the Shop ‘n Save on Forest Avenue in Portland, water and batteries along with champagne were display items.
Robin Williams, 48, of Cumberland Foreside bought 5 gallons of spring water. Asked if she was worried about Y2K, she said, “I really don’t. But there’s no sense taking a chance.”
Year 2000 worries revolve around how older computers will interpret the date change on Jan. 1, 2000. Some fear older computer programs will misread the date as Jan. 1, 1900, causing computer crashes.
Despite assurances to the contrary, some fear computer problems could cause power outages or even contaminate water supplies.
In Augusta, an oil company sought to cash in on fears by parking a tanker truck on a lawn on one of the city’s main streets with a sign on the side that read: “Be Ready Y2K Fillups.”
Gene Guilford, president of the Maine Oil Dealers Association, said there have been no spikes in demand due to Y2K fears, which he calls unfounded. The group distributed 162,000 notices to Maine consumers telling them there are no reasons to be concerned about problems with service or product deliveries due to Y2K issues.
Still, people want to be prepared.
Outside the Fleet Bank branch at Monument Square, Colin Rankin, 30, of Portland said he wasn’t really worried about Y2K but planned to withdraw about $1,000 in cash, in case his credit card didn’t work or the bank machines ran out of cash.
“It’s weird,” he said. “I really don’t put stock in [Y2K], but there should be a back door.”
Others were more carried away.
Barbara Roycroft, 67, of Portland said her sister has stockpiled about $400 worth of food. “She’s so scared.”
Roycroft said she was buying just a few extra items for herself, as she would for a winter storm. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said. “We’ll make out all right. We’re Mainers.”