Gov. James S. Gilmore III took to the airwaves yesterday to assure Virginians that state computer systems are prepared for Y2K and that police have discovered no terrorist threats targeting New Year's Eve festivities in the Old Dominion.
"Virginia is prepared," Gilmore (R) said on his monthly call-in radio show on WTOP in Washington. "I don't anticipate problems, and I think that we're ready. Nobody's got a crystal ball, so I don't think that you can absolutely say that no computer anywhere will not fail. But I don't foresee a problem with it. I don't think that's a difficulty at all. . . . We're ready to go."
State emergency and police officials delivered the same message at a news conference in Richmond yesterday morning. There will be little disruption, they said, but Virginians should prepare for the coming of Y2K as they would for a winter storm: with water, food, cash and an alternative source of heat and light on hand.
More tips are available on the Department of Emergency Services World Wide Web site, www.vdes.state.va.us, or from the state's toll-free Y2K hot line, 1-888-200-0258.
Virginia officials have been working for 18 months to debug computers and build backup systems to avert problems that could crop up just after midnight Friday, when computer clocks first read the year 2000. The total state Y2K effort is expected to cost $211 million, mostly for the labor needed to fix computers.
Though state officials say that telephone connections and other utilities are unlikely to fail, the state has organized ham radio operators to provide a backup link with officials from all 138 cities and counties in Virginia.
Officials are manning the state's emergency operations center in Richmond as if a hurricane were bearing down on the coast, but they said no widespread problems are expected with state operations, transportation systems or utilities. More likely are localized problems affecting individual communities or families, said Michael M. Cline, head of the Department of Emergency Services.
"We are Y2K-ready, and we don't expect to have any major infrastructure troubles," Cline said.
Col. M. Wayne Huggins, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said there is no need to avoid public places or festivities on New Year's Eve.
Leave was canceled for state troopers, so virtually all officers will be on patrol as the new millennium arrives.
Huggins said the biggest threat, as usual, will likely come from personal misbehavior such as drunken driving. "We have no information of any credible threat against any person or asset," he said. "I don't know if there's ever been a time that [law enforcement] staffing levels have ever been higher in this country than they will be Friday and Saturday."
CAPTION: Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) talks with co-host Howard Dicus during a break in the show "Ask the Governor."