The following article originally appeared in the Jan. 2, 2000, edition of Mid-Valley Sunday, a joint Democrat-Herald/Gazette-Times venture.
CORVALLIS — The calendar has turned to the year 2000 and all is well and quiet in Benton County — at least, a far as the dreaded Y2K bug.
"Things are going pretty smoothly," Fire Chief Doug Van Pelt said shortly into the new year. "We've got some (traffic accidents) and disturbance calls, things that are pretty typical for New Year's Eve."
Van Pelt was in charge of the command post set up at the Law Enforcement Center to deal with any crises arising from computer malfunction or any other disruption of services. He was joined by about a dozen other representatives from law enforcement and public works departments along with electricity and communications providers.
By 12:30 a.m., all four Corvallis fire stations reported that all the city's fire equipment had been tested and was operating correctly.
Plans called for the command post to be up and operating until 7 a.m. Saturday. But with the lack of Y2K crises around the world, nation and county, people were being released from the post by 1:15 a.m.
A command post set up by hospital staff at Good Samaritan also started shutting down by 1 a.m.
Outside the law building, as the clock struck 12, a survey of downtown traffic showed that about half the cars on the streets were law enforcement vehicles. Inside, those at the command post lifted glasses of non-alcoholic sparkling cider to toast the new year.
According to a deputy working in the booking room at the law center, the number of arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants was below normal for a New Year's Eve. Twice as many police officers — two sergeants and 16 Corvallis police officers — were on the beat for New Year's.
The downtown command center started up Friday morning, with staff keeping an eye on one of the two TV screens monitoring Y2K news from around the world. All the news indicated Benton County and the rest of the state would avoid major computer-related problems.
At one point during Friday a report came in that someone had threatened to blow up a bridge crossing the Willamette River. It turned out to be a misinterpretation of a report on someone threatening to commit suicide by jumping from a bridge crossing the river.
Ready for the future
Lifting glasses of sparkling cider at midnight was a nice alternative to responding to an emergency, said Peggy Peirson, coordinator of Benton County Emergency Services.
A year's worth of preparation for potential Y2K problems may have benefits that last well beyond the beginning of the new year.
"It was a really great exercise for the community on how to be prepared for the disruption of services that could come from floods, wind or even an earthquake," she said. "There really isn't a downside to how this turned out."
Getting neighborhood residents together to take inventory of available resources brought people closer.
"Neighbors have been disconnected from each other through time," she said. "Now they're sitting down, talking and taking stock of what is available in their neighborhoods."
The concern of possible Y2K problems has brought out the best and worst in many people, Peirson said. Some took on a siege mentality, prepared to survive by themselves. But most became more involved in finding ways for themselves, and others, to survive a crisis.
If people don't forget what they've learned about disaster preparedness during the last year, they'll be better off, Peirson said.
"Our last message on Y2K preparations is now that you're prepared, stay that way. We hope people will hang on to the message they've heard."