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1997-05-17 00:00:00


Analogy: the Year 2000 Problem as a Flood


The lady who wrote this is a programmer who is working on y2k repairs. She has compared the y2k problem with the 1997 flooding in Canada and North Dakota. It is a very clever analogy, in each of its details. If you don't understand the threat to society, this is a good place to begin.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As I was starting my presentation at a PMI conference in Winnipeg on April 24, I noted a startling similarity between the Year 2000 problem and the flood that was then destroying North Dakota and was fast approaching southern Manitoba.

Now, on May 11, 10 days after the flood crest reached Winnipeg, I find that the analogy is still a reasonable if not a perfect one. The following are mostly facts about the flood; in most cases I leave the reader to ponder the parallels.

1. The flood crest was coming whether we were ready or not.

2. There was a system designed to save Winnipeg (the floodway). [re Y2K: many companies have been building compliant systems for years.] This morning, the newspaper estimated that, without the floodway, 80% of the city would have been flooded and 85% of the people would have been evacuated (more than half a million people).

3. Many small towns had permanent dikes and stayed dry, but the people had to evacuate because the access roads were flooded. [there's nothing you can do about external interfaces] The good news is, their homes are dry and they can return before the roads are rebuilt to their smooth pre-flood condition.

4. Building a dike out of earth or sand bags does not require that all the participants be expert dike builders. The huge problem was resources. Money was not the biggest problem. Neither was earth or sand. In many areas, the supply of empty bags ran out during critical periods and the trucks were not always able to bring the sand when needed. There was a constant call for people. However, volunteers came from far and wide and the Armed Forces mobilized and made a huge difference. Penitentiary inmates were utilized. [are there possibilities here for innovative sources of Y2K staff?]

5. One or two communities outside the floodway were not made aware that they would have a problem. When they began to flood, they called for sand bags and volunteers. They received too few too late.

6. Many families made contingency plans in case the dike didn't hold. The methods were varied with varied degrees of effectiveness.

7. The flood waters rose the most and problems occurred before the arrival of the crest itself [actual arrival of the year 2000].

8. A small breach in a dike caused a whole town to be flooded.

9. The dikes were patrolled 24 hours a day for weaknesses. They still are even now that the crest has passed. The water is not all gone and isolated problems are still occurring.

10. When it became clear that the water level would the highest in over a century, a 24-kilometer dike was built in 5 days, a contract that would normally require more than 6 weeks. It was possible only through the cooperation of construction companies, armed forces and volunteers that were able to supply and man 150 pieces of machinery and 80 trucks.

11. The money and people required to bring the flooded areas back to normal will be huge.

12. The disaster would have been far worse if people who were not in danger themselves had not helped those who were (money and clothes for evacuees, sand bagging, etc.).

13. Many events that would normally have been thought important were cancelled so participants could concentrate on fighting the flood. Companies arranged for buses to carry staff to sandbagging sites during business hours. Students were excused from classes.

Marj Bone ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Marj Bone549 Montrose St. Information Systems ProfessionalWinnipeg, MB Phone: (204) 488-7575R3M 3M3

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