OMAHA (AP) — It's not a fear of computer failure that has Larry Bottger talking of pulling the plug on the ATM at the First Nebraska Bank's drive-through in Valley.
Instead the bank president worries that talk of service disruptions and other problems associated with the Y2K computer bug may prompt paranoid depositors to take large withdrawals from his bank and others on New Year's Eve.
By denying access to the ATM, customers will be forced to get cash at the Valley bank's main office down the street. The move also prevents noncustomers from depleting the bank's cash supply.
"I'll move the money out of my ATM and save it for my customers," he said. "I hope it's the biggest yawn of the century."
After spending millions of dollars to correct computer codes, the state's public utilities, government entities, banks and other businesses are doubtful that Y2K problems will stem from computers.
However, none is ruling out the possibility of problems caused by 11th-hour stockpiling of food, water and cash and other last-minute panic.
Grocery stores across the state are ordering extra quantities of staple items expected to be in high demand. The Federal Reserve Bank in Omaha is making extra cash available to Nebraska institutions, and has hired armored car services over the long holiday weekend to ensure prompt deliveries.
"There is enough cash to meet every conceivable need, and we are prepared to be open through the weekend," said Ron Ryan, the Federal Reserve's assistant Y2K manager.
The Platte Valley National Bank in Scottsbluff and other financial institutions also plan to be open Jan. 1 to help alleviate concerns, especially from customers worried that computer-handled direct deposits may get lost.
"We just want people to know we will be here and we will be open," said Hod Kosman, president of the Scottsbluff bank, which is also guaranteeing all direct deposits.
The Nebraska Bankers Association has not suggested that banks stay open over the weekend but many are planning to do so since they already will be staffed to make sure their computers are working properly.
Kosman plans to be at a party Dec. 31 but knows he may have to be at work minutes after midnight.
"I will kiss my wife, and then call the bank on my cell phone," he said.
HyVee grocery stores, along with other retailers, are planning to use Y2K as a promotional tool with special sales and discounts.
Managers at more than 200 HyVee stores in seven states including Nebraska are placing extra orders for diapers, toilet paper, soap, pet food, canned fruits, vegetables, meat, bottled juices and water and powdered milk.
The Hastings Wal-Mart bought extra bottled water in case of problems, but that is the only Y2K-prompted purchase planned, manager James Carson said. There have been no runs on sleeping bags, canned food or portable generators.
Gas stations are not making any special orders for tanks to be filled before New Year's Eve, even though they said a run at the pumps could completely drain gas supplies.
"There isn't enough gasoline and diesel fuel if they filled up every tank they owned two days before the end of the year," said Fred Stone, executive director of the Nebraska Petroleum Marketers Association. "There would be a glitch in the system" only because the system is not designed to meet that kind of demand.
The same goes for telephone service. Phone networks may be hampered by everyone trying to dial at the same time around midnight to wish family or friends a happy holiday or to see if they are experiencing any Y2K-related problems.
Even worse is people just picking up the phone to see if there is a dial tone.
US West spokeswoman Carla Ewert compared the phone network to Interstate 80 between Omaha and Lincoln.
"In normal everyday traffic, the Interstate works fine," she said. "But if everybody tries to get on at the same time, we all know what happens. It slows down and some can't get on."
If the same happens with phone networks across Nebraska, the bottleneck could pose life-threatening situations with disruptions to emergency 911 service, Ewert said.
The message and simple plea from US West: Give the phone a break on New Year's Eve, including Internet use.
"Our concern is that people will overload the network," Ewert said. "No networks or highways are built for everybody to use at once."
Gov. Mike Johanns is urging people not to overreact. He has echoed the recommendations of the Red Cross that residents should stock up on items they normally would before a forecasted winter storm.
Johanns is so confident that disruptions will be minimal that he has ordered most of his staff to take New Year's Eve night off, spokesman Chris Peterson said.
Rod Norton, manager of Shedeed's Coast to Coast hardware store in Rushville, said no one has come into his store looking to stock up on items.
"We haven't seen any difference at all," he said. "In fact, everybody just laughs about it. We're used to the lights going out around here."