Why The Power Will Fail In 2000

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

My conscience is bothering me and I've got to say something. I read Mitch Ratcliffe's challenge on ZDNet. He apparently thinks that everything's going fine with all the Y2K remediation work because no one who is involved in it will speak out publicly.

Sorry, but the $1000 doesn't cut it. I have been warned by management that if I go public or say anything negative it's my CAREER. They'll destroy me. I've been in the business for 30 years and I'm too old to change careers.

I can't identify myself, but I can speak out.

I work for an electrical utility. (I won't say where because you'd figure out who it is.) If our company is indication, the lights ARE going out next January at the crack of midnight.

We don't have time to test every piece of equipment. What we're doing is TYPE CHECKING, which is just a fancy of way of saying SPOT CHECKING. Just the other day I looked at a Phillips VRZ262-Q7 unit that monitors the current in four 05388 sub assemblies. I wanted to check everything but my supervisor said, "NO just check one assembly." We ASSUME that the other three will be OK. We're doing the same thing with our Siemens System 3 SCADA; we're only looking at some of the RTUs. They've declared the DPS system to be "non-mission-critical" so we're not even checking it!

I'm worried because we've been laying off people right and left to cut costs for the past 5 years. Some of these people have gone to work for private contractors, but a lot of them have gone into other types of work. The company is being run by kids in business suits, and these geniuses think that they'll be able to hire the private contractors to help out in a pinch. BUT THEY'RE GOING TO BE OVERLOADED, TOO.

The April 9 drill was a PR stunt. Lane Core was right. I don't know what everyone else did but I can TELL you what we did. We talked to each other on walkie-talkies and had a great picnic.

One day last winter we advanced the dates on the EMS and the power went off. Cascade failures knocked out a bunch of other stuff. Because of that the geniuses decided that we can't test the entire system, so we just work on "spot remediation." We make sure all the dates LOOK right so that we can claim good numbers in our reports. The first time the whole system will be tested together is January 1 2000!

(Don't you remember reading about that big outage last Winter? That's what happened! I was there!)

Prepare people. Don't let the Happy Faces fool you. You should be ready for a week at least with no power on New Year's with random outages of 4-6 hours for at least another YEAR. Or WORSE.

-- Worried Utility Worker (worried@eusa.com), June 28, 1999


Thank you for your report.

Got my 20kW NG/propane genset installed and "burned-in". 500 gal aux propane tank too. We're as ready as we can get from a power standpoint.

185 days remain.

-- Dennis (djolson@pressenter.com), June 28, 1999.


Thanks for the report. Many agree with you. Some do not.

At this very moment bets are being placed all over the world.


-- Got Odds?

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), June 28, 1999.

If you thought your company had you scared....just wait until a few of these people here pick you apart like a Thanksgiving turkey. Stick around for Q and A. You're going to need to provide more detailed info. This is too lacking and general to be considered genuine info. What size underwear do you have on? Good intentions just aren't good enough around here, mister. Honesty isn't either.

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), June 29, 1999.

Wow guy, you're good! [not]

We all better tell Phillips that they need to work on their numbering/naming schemes, because they overlap quite a bit with their consumer electronics gear.

For example, the VRZ262AT is a stereo VCR. Hmm, the VRZ262-Q7 is some sort of power gizmo?

I don't think so.


-- Jollyprez (jolly@prez.com), June 29, 1999.

"Let the games begin"

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), June 29, 1999.


I'm a former reporter, and a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain who just gave a community preparedness speech to my Neighborhood Watch group last night. I did my homework with regard to potential infrastructure problems in my area, and when I was finished (mentioning to them that it was difficult to come forward, because I didn't want to be known as the "Neighborhood Y2k Kook," wearing a tin-foil hat, waiting for the nuclear bombs to drop) my neighbors applauded me. I'm not kidding. They applauded.

Having said that, I hope you are indeed a worried utility worker, and not someone from the generally rude "Y2k Debunker Camp." Those folks generally visit this forum to have fun. They like to have fun debating, because they think a lot of people who visit this forum are stupid. Are they right? Yes and no.

The only thing I know for certain is that the American Red Cross is NOT stupid.

Should you decide to elaborate on the above--provided you are for real--you will find friends on this forum who will email you privately, or provide you with their email addresses, so you might discuss this further without worry about keeping your identity secret.

Scott Johnson (scojo@yahoo.com) of Y2k today, is a good and reputable place to start. His boss was the former chief of United Press International, and recently testified before the Senate Special Committee on the Y2k Technology Problem, with regard to community preparedness and the media's role in helping us prepare.

Drew Parkhill at www.cbn.org has also frequented this forum and is also the type of person who would be willing to keep your information "off the record."

Now, having said that--to all of you forum regulars--

"I'm b-a-a-a-a-c-k!"

Have you been waiting with baited breath (does anyone really know what that expression means?)for my return?

Probably not!

Accordingly. . .I'm just here for this post. (But--maybe I'll tell you later why the Neighborhood Watch meeting last night was pretty cool. . )

God bless.


FYI Worried: My email address is--and has always been--real.

-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), June 29, 1999.

Dear Worried,

I don't know what area of the country you are in, and that is fine with me. I respect your desire for anonymity. I've travelled the western two-thirds of the country this past year on business not related to Y2K as a speaker at large seminars and I can assure you that you are not alone. I've had numerous other Electrical Utility workers come to me during breaks in the seminar/conferences to relate to me what they've seen going on with their companies.

You are not the first to tell me of threats by senior management. I know some folks who know so much that is bad that they are terrified that the information might get out and that they would be blamed. They told me anyway because they trusted that my expertise as a former news reporter included reporter confidentiality. They entrusted that to me and I've kept it.

The testing situation you describe is what I've heard in perhaps a dozen different power companies. One guy told me that they don't have the manpower nor the replacements to test and replace what they figured they'd need...so they're just doing some spot testing.

BUT...that's not the worst of it. Guess what...its even worse in the oil industry...which I have tons more testimony from folk in that industry...including relatives. They indicate that spot testing is all that can be done, and they don't even know where a lot of the stuff is. Furthermore, some companies in the oil fields are not even bothering to test their systems...preferring to "fix on fail" or wait for Bill Gates to ride to the rescue. It's nearly as bad in the refineries also. SO... your company may not have any oil to fuel your plants (if you use oil) or get any coal from the railroads (they use diesel fuel, that the refineries will likely be interrupted from supplying so the trains may not run)... then of course there is the issue of gasoline for you folks needing to run around repairing lines. There's only about a 3 day inventory of gasoline...sometimes just a day or two... (not much storage capacity is left to tank up more than that in most refineries).

So... consider that ... and consider that if your power goes down and the refineries in areas below 40 degrees will have to shut down because while they've got power plants for lights and control room equipment, etc...most don't have separate power generation to keep the oil lines warmer than 40 degrees...below which the oil congeals and the plant shuts down and likely would be forced into lengthy cleanups. IF there are repeated shut downs of 4-6 hours duration at a refinery during such below 40 degree temps... then it is likely such plants won't even be able to adequately start production till 90 days after warm weather keeps temps continously above 40 degrees.

Now maybe you get an even clearer picture of the impact oil and electricity have on each other... a combination of the problems you're describing plus the problems in the oil side...could spell extreme trouble for everybody... therefore... your one week problem could become exceedingly longer... maybe even a year??? I don't know...but perhaps its not so unfathomable that the power grid may go dark and perhaps stay dark for 6 months or a year. One industries problems may feed the others in a vicious cycle.

It's certainly not going to be any bump in the road situation unless we're all extremely fortunate beyond belief.

However, I still say the odds are more likely for serious problems lasting 6 months to a year....but you're report if typical of the entire industry (despite Rick Cowles and others testimony to the contrary)... then minimum recoveries might be even longer.

-- R.C. (raca,bab@mailcity.com), June 29, 1999.

Geez, R.C., you sound like me, as in:

"My expertise as a former news reporter included reporter confidentiality."

Question is: is your email address real?


-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), June 29, 1999.

"Drew Parkhill at www.cbn.org has also frequented this forum and is also the type of person who would be willing to keep your information "off the record.""

I agree. We have confirmation from Drew on "Dan, the power man." It sure would put some punch behind this post if we could do the same for W.U.W. <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), June 29, 1999.

As a nontechnical outsider, I wouldn't have any idea of what a VZ whatever gizmo is. I've gotten somewhat more reassured recently about Y2K and U.S. power grids (see the earlier "ABB Report" thread), primarily because of the January "ABB Review" report by Dr. Ragaller and also because of various engineers posting good news about the T&D systems over on Cowles's euy2k.com forum; these folks have (allegedly) EPRI data to back them up. I've long had nightmares about Y2K and the T&D systems; to learn that there have been relatively few serious Y2K problems found in those systems is very relieving to me.

That said, I understand that there can be dangers to type testing and that type testing is going on in at least some (maybe many) power companies. (Ditto for blind reliance upon vendor compliance statements.) In its January report, NERC specifically and sternly warned against type testing, though it buried this warning about 60 pages into the report and for some incomprehensible reason limited the warning to just the testing of embedded components in distribution systems (where few or no serious Y2K issues have been found anyway!). Anybody who has read the ABB report-- probably the single best, most authoritative document out there--knows that most Y2K dangers involving embedded components lie in the generating plants themselves (with also some in the network/bulk control centers, etc.). I would think that relying upon type testing in this environment could indeed be rolling the dice.

I took up the issue of type testing with Rick Cowles in an email four or five months ago. He confirmed that it is indeed going on: one of his clients has an electrical switchyard (where the power is stepped up for transmission after leaving the generating plant) and is relying upon type testing. Mr. Cowles's blunt assessment: "Very dangerous, in my opinion." I have since read elsewhere that some forms of type testing are more reliable than others, thankfully--but obviously lots of questions remain.

Your experience with EMS echoes that of Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), as reported in "Newsweek," June 2, 1997, p. 53 (give or take a page). HECO's systems analyst, Wendell Ito, reported much the same result you had. HECO now reports its EMS as fixed.

DCS and SCADA systems were singled out by ABB as being Y2K vulnerable, as were feedback/control and communications systems generally and some operator stations. ABB raised concerns about grid stability, load management, etc., though the impression given (at least on my reading) was that it would take a combination of (unlikely) bad events to actually bring down most power grids. ABB repeatedly stressed the robustness and resiliency of the grid system, plus the feasibility of manual operator control. Some good news here is that, in a recent post on Cowles's forum, an engineer with an hydro-electric company in the Pacific Northwest noted their ability to do manual control without problems for 18 days while their SCADA system was down for necessary repairs. Whether all companies could do as well, I have no way of knowing, of course.

Again, as a nontechnical outsider, I find all of this very difficult to struggle with--and it makes me angry that power companies waited so long to come to grips with Y2K, thereby impelling me and many other concerned citizens to take time to try to understand what in the blue blazes is going on. ("Get to know your power system.) There are other things I'd prefer to do. Furthermore, all of the anonymous "insider" reporting--"polly," "doomer," or in-between--gets very frustrating. Over on Cowles's forum I find "Cl," "Dan the Power Man," "The Engineer," and "FactFinder," all supposedly power company engineers, folks whose reports I've been relying upon. And of course now we have your anonymous report to add to the mix, on the negative side. One runs often into the same sort of thing when it comes to, say, the oil industry (another area of grave concern, obviously), with alleged "insider" reports all over the place (and all over the map in terms of their opinions). I understand the position of the people making these anonymous reports: go public and you risk losing your job. That is the refrain among employees in company after company with regard to Y2K these days. But damn it, it begins to make one feel as though he is living in Nazi Germany, not in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Again, I don't blame the individuals: I blame the companies. It's a shame that a fellow loses his democratic freedoms the moment he steps through the company door. More than 135 years ago, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that we would never become a nation of "wage slaves"--he was echoing the Jeffersonian ideal of the independent farmer (plus the independent small businessperson, the independent tradesman, etc.). And maybe Lincoln had just read Thoreau, who died in 1862.

Obviously, in no society/economy is anyone ever wholly independent or free when it comes to an occupation--or to anything else, for that matter. "Man is born free and everywhere is in chains." (Actually, Rousseau got it wrong: you really aren't born free, either, but instead are bound to and by the very conditions and demands of existence.) Besides, I rather like much of what "advanced" civilization has to offer; I agree with our resident economist, Mr. Decker, that life in a state of nature, or in most primitive or pre-industrialized societies, bears out Hobbes's assessment: "poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (Remember "Tom Sawyer"? Idyllic, huh? But in the Hannibal of Sam Clemens, almost half of all the children died in one measles epidemic. And if you want a vision of pure hell, read someday Daniel Defoe's "A Journal of the Plague Year.") At the same time, Lincoln would have been astounded that we can't honestly, openly, and without fear of reprisal confront an issue so important that Arnaud de Borchgrave of the Center for Strategic and International Studies a year ago termed it "a national emergency." Must duplicity be so built into our very corporate structure, even in the face of such an emergency? And have we become such a nation of wage slaves?

After months of serious Y2K research, I still can't predict, even roughly, what Y2K in and of itself will result in next year. But I know a grossly overvalued stock market and a highly vulnerable economy (both domestic and global) when I see it; I know something about human nature; I know what mystery, fear, and uncertainty can do. I know "the horror, the horror" of the primitive subconscious beast within.

There's a terrible irony here. If more companies aren't more forthcoming, and don't let their employees be more forthcoming (be the news good, bad, or indifferent), we are likely to wreak upon ourselves far more lasting harm than what any noncompliant VZ whatever gizmo could do by itself. By their very acts to protect themselves, many companies may be slitting their own corporate throats.

However this all turns out, we are all (no matter where we stand on Y2K or what we have done or haven't done) going to look back on this and not feel very good about ourselves. A mirror has been held up to our society--and the reflection is ugly.

-- Don Florence (dflorence@zianet.com), June 29, 1999.

I would like to have been the first to say "bullshit" to the original post, but allow me to second the motion..."you are full of shit, worried"

Ibet you don't even work NEAR a utility.

-- anonamus (fear@thenew.overlords), June 29, 1999.

End philosophical rant. I apologize to everyone, no matter where they are on the Y2K spectrum. It's late, and I'm tired and disgusted, and self-disgusted most of all. Definitely time for me to take a long vacation from this forum, despite the many good posts that various people have put on it.

-- Don Florence (dflorence@zianet.com), June 29, 1999.


You asked, "Have you been waiting with baited breath (does anyone really know what that expression means?)for my return? "

The correct idiom is , "waiting with 'bated breath". 'bated is a contraction of "abated". The expression is simply an old timey way of saying that you're holding your breath while waiting.

I'd guess that if you "baited" your breath, you'd use a breath freshener or mouthwash in hopes that someone would kiss you. . .



-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), June 29, 1999.


Some wisdom indeed, on this thread.

Not the least of which:

"Again, I don't blame the individuals: I blame the companies."


"Some day, ages and ages since, I will be telling this with a sigh Two roads diverged in a wood and I Took the road less traveled by."

Or--in the popular vernacular:


"How do you convince a CEO to spend money on a problem he cannot see?"


"You scare the Hell out of him."

Too bad they weren't scared earlier.


-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), June 29, 1999.


Now you are definitely scaring me with your knowledge of old folk sayings!

Thank you for the clarification, and rest assured, that I do not "bait" my breath. As we get older, nature does the job for us. Also, it's "fish fly season" in my part of the country. Plenty of bait there. Stand by a light. Open your mouth!



-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), June 29, 1999.

Oh no! You mean the power companies won't be able to record their favorite soaps on that Phillips VRZ262-Q7? TEOTWAWKI for sure!

-- amused (nice-try@troll.com), June 29, 1999.


It's not really an old folk saying, it's just archaic and somewhat poetic use of language.

Just keep your mouth closed when you 'bate your breath and you'll be OK. . . (I'll bet them fish flies taste nasty!)

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), June 29, 1999.

This is a hoax.

Just to let you know that there's no such thing as a "Siemens System 3 SCADA" either. It's actually a mish-mash of various other terms. A web search threw up this link from which you can see that System 3 is made by Rosemount, and a further search found (Fischer-Rosemount systems inc. aka FRS) . I don't have time to investigate this site in detail but they seem to specialize in the sorts of valvegear that you'd find in oil and gas plants not in the electricity industry ... oh, and searching this site found nothing described as an 05388.

The general descriptions smell bad too -- I'm no specialist but I can read Dick Mills and Rick Cowles, which I don't think this joker can.

I do this sort of search every time I see anything with detail (and in the absence of detail, I'm a skeptic). Sadly there are a lot of liars out there.

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), June 29, 1999.

Don...tired or not, you have had the last word on this thread (for me anyway). Go get some sleep buddy, we can't afford to loose you to a vacation....not just yet, anyway! Bravo! Nice to see you back FM, no matter what condition your breathe is in.....(ain't the Internet great? You should see my hair sister!)

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), June 29, 1999.

Been reading this thread Nigel, and I think you are right. This doesn't sound very realistic to me. More like the kind of mishmash we have been seeing cobbled up to worry people about oil.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), June 29, 1999.

Simpsons' Bully kid voice:

"ha ha!"

-- (worried@is a.troll), June 29, 1999.

If the power really does goes off for two weeks, lots of folks are going to die.

Just what sort of career are you likely to have left after that happens?

-- wondering (about@all.this), June 29, 1999.

Grave digger.

-- Johnny (JLJTM@BELLSOUTH.NET), June 29, 1999.

Ooooh, lot at this. A "doomer" troll. How very rare, how very unique. A real gem....

Or could it be a "polly" troll disguising itself as a "doomer" so it can have a good laugh over at the BFI site at the expense of poor Yourdon folks? Is that you again, Buddy? Off your medication again, perhaps?....

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), June 29, 1999.

We've got this apparently "fake doomer" post, "Mild Mannered Reporter" firing off 6 threads at a time with "Good News For All", and Mr. Decker (seeming much, much less reasonable than usual) using up much time and energy on another thread in hammering away at the old "moderation is censorship" canard (if I had a dime for every time I've seen that, well, I'd still be poorer than Gates, but not by much)...

All of which started the same day: Monday, 06/28/1999. Must be something in the air...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), June 29, 1999.

Well, Mac, Gartner says we get to check out 8% of Y2K damage starting Thursday. I suppose the best defense is a good offense, and pre- emptive strikes the most damaging? That, or the CME has the polly trolls disjointed.....

-- lisa (lisa@work.now), June 29, 1999.


Somehow the image of a disjointed Decker just strikes my funnybone (laughter).

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), June 29, 1999.

Well there was a full moon last night.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), June 29, 1999.

Paul was sitting on a hilltop howling at it.

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), June 29, 1999.

I found a fresh Polly down at the lake and drained his blood... polly blood has a fluffy taste, like cotton candy.

-- Lisa (lisa@work.now), June 29, 1999.

The Phillips VRZ262-Q7, hmmmm...haven't we seen a previous bogus post on a non-y2k compliant "Q7" transistor before? This shoulda been a hint... Regards,

-- FactFinder (FactFinder@bzn.com), June 29, 1999.

Lisa...you are obviously doing something wrong. Polly blood is waterly and pale. It's the brains that are fluffy.

-- Lobo (atthelair@yahoo.com), June 29, 1999.

If Worried is right and all you other doom and gloomers agree, then you better go to www.y2kpots.com becuase that's the product you're going to need!

-- Roy Hobbs (sbohhyor@webtv.net), June 30, 1999.

So---again we have both sides of the problem. Proves that NO BODY KNOWS how bad it will be, if Y2K will collaps everything or if Y2K will be just another normall day.

-- Clyde (a30sguy@calweb.com), June 30, 1999.

This post from Worried was also posted on EUY2K. Rick Cowles today said he had established to a "certainty" that it is a hoax (both from internal content and using his knowledge as moderator). Nigel and Paul Davis are correct.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 30, 1999.

For more about the hoax, see the thread at:


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), July 05, 1999.

I would say that Jolly figured it out by the third post. Good work Jolly!

-- Brian (imager@home.com), July 06, 1999.

I just had to say this....

09/09/99 and gee, everything is still working....

by the way, a date stored for sept. 9, 99 is NOT 9999! It is 090999!

-- none (none@none.com), September 09, 1999.

test trtr

-- loopyb (fr@nh.com), April 23, 2002.


-- hysterical (history@themaking.com), August 03, 2002.

A lot of jackasses have been here.

-- Steve H (steve@fws.net), February 09, 2003.

So we have an opportunity to visit, five years removed, the battleground of ideas over the effects of Y2k. With current events reaching epoch, view involved in the debates over the previously unknown will care to come back, with the exception of myself.

The whole worry over Y2k seems rather nutty now. Personally, I never proposed complete doom; that impressed me as the fanciful wishes of anarchists and Reconstructionists who for the most part had already adopted a “survivalist” lifestyle.

The outcome, at least to a certain extent, was far from certain. Folks “in the know” really didn’t know what was going to happen. Fortunately, the public didn’t care, or didn’t know enough to care. The media essentially whitewashed to whole story by portraying anyone concerned about the issue with the doomsayer label. True, may fit this label. But other didn’t. Only a good sense of humor to ward off the constant ribbing made the weeks leading up to the rollover tolerable.

Discourse on message boards like this one had devolved more than a year before the turn. Certainly “The End of the World as we Know It” theme resonated with force. And of course there’s the “If you live within five miles of a Seven-Eleven, you’re toast” tagline, usually prefaced with expletives and “You’ll be dead soon.”

All this uncivil rant doomed any serious portrayal of the problem. In retrospect, it may be what saved us from a level of mass chaos. But then again, it’s also probably true that no one would have cared. Dependent as we might be on computer in our everyday life, no one was convinced that Y2k could have that much of an effect.

And it didn’t. I used up my toilet paper stash long ago. Went camping a number of times now that stash is gone as well. I keep a few supplies for an ice storm. That’s about it. I’m sorry I spent the time I spent on this. I’ve made some good friends though. But a good many have died.

It was an odd cult, but something at least I could understand. Today, current events make even less sense than Y2k. I suppose returning here on this occasion five years removed provides me with a level of comfort. Even though we were clearly a bunch of fruitnuts.

-- Hiway Collins (Hiway441@aol.com), October 24, 2004.

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