City Folk Make Friends With Their Neighbors Preparing for Y2K

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -- If this city loses electricity on Jan. 1, 2000, and the temperature plummets, the residents of Catherine Street know they can count on one another for heat, water, expert advice and anything else they may need.

'It was a good exercise in community involvement for all of us,' said Catherine Street resident Beth Haggart, adding that the group has given her a chance to get acquainted with neighbors she might not have otherwise met.

Remembering the ice storm that broke tree limbs and downed many of the region's power lines in the winter of 1997, the Burlington residents have made plans that should keep them warm if the heat and power do go out as a result of Y2K.

Together, they bought several cords of firewood that will be used to heat two homes on the street with wood stoves. Those homes will be open to the families who lose heat, said Haggart. The wood, incidentally, was stacked in the shape of a fort to make a play area for the neighborhood children.

The neighbors also plan to share the cost of repairing a nonelectric gas heater one of them owns, she said.

Rather than pooling money to buy food and supplies in bulk for the entire street, members of each household are storing what is important to them. Haggart said she will use milk jugs to store several gallons of water in her basement. Others are stocking up on cereal, toilet paper, soymilk, beans and rice.

The neighbors say they will share with one another as necessary; after normal life resumes, leftover food will go to the local community kitchen.