BRENDAN LYONS Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A5

Date: Saturday, January 1, 2000

Watching more than 25 time zones strike midnight without a hitch put top state officials at ease Friday as Y2K arrived quietly after four years of preparation. ``It does great things for my confidence,'' said a weary-looking James G. Natoli, the governor's director of state operations.

Natoli was among 150 state officials working inside a former bomb shelter that now houses the state's emergency operations center. The windowless facility two stories below ground is adjacent to State Police Headquarters on Washington Avenue.

Officials inside the million-dollar command post, still called the bunker, took reports from across the state when midnight arrived. Public utilities, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, airports, railroads and banks were among the thousands of systems being checked.

The dozens of workers representing everything from public utilities to State Police and social services darted about the former cold war bunker throughout New Year's Eve. The main operations center has rows of computers and flat-screen televisions, resembling a NASA control room.

But the workers were at ease, some even finding time to take cigarette breaks as they described the relaxed atmosphere inside the command post. Watching midnight celebrations from across the globe had a calming effect since there were no signs of terrorism or widespread systems malfunctions, they said.

As midnight approached here, big-screen televisions inside the center carried everything from weather reports to live newscasts. Workers will keep a vigil for several more days and maintain links with emergency commands posts in each of New York's 62 counties.

The 40-year-old former shelter was transformed into a high-tech control room specifically for Y2K. It was built during the cold war years to become a makeshift state government headquarters in the event of a nuclear strike. Originally designed to house 400 people for up to two weeks, it has since undergone a $1 million makeover under the direction of the state's Emergency Management Office.

On any given day in the state, an average of 159 power outages affecting 10,000 customers is the norm. All day Friday, just three minor power outages affected 300 customers statewide, officials said.

A small percentage of ATM machines also malfunction daily, so having your bank card chewed up may not be related to a Year 2000 computer glitch.

``If there are any disruptions, don't jump to a conclusion,'' Natoli cautioned.