Officials in Nevada fear large numbers of people could be coming to the southern part of the state next month.
Local officials this week approved two events for small desert towns near the United States military base known as Area 51. Area 51 is known in popular culture as a research center for government studies of creatures from outer space and alien spaceships.
The officials have prepared an emergency declaration. They also plan to work with neighboring counties and the state government for events tied to an internet-based campaign called “Storm Area 51.”
Area 51 was once a top-secret U.S. Air Force test area. The base is part of Nevada’s Lincoln County, which is home to about 5,200 people.
Lincoln County Commission Chairman Varlin Higbee told The Las Vegas Review-Journal that he and other officials are worried about the possibility of large crowds.
“With the possibility of 35,000 to 40,000 people showing up, yeah, this is serious,” said Higbee.
County officials are concerned that a sudden increase of visitors will crowd campsites, fuel stations and public medical and telecommunications services. Officials count just 184 hotel rooms in the county, which is nearly two times the size of the state of Connecticut.
“The cellphone system is going to go down,” Higbee said. “You get more than a couple of hundred people there, and it’s going to crash. Cell service won’t be available.”
The Little A’Le’Inn is a hotel in the community of Rachel, which has a population of about 50. The hotel’s owners are planning a three-day music show called Alienstock, named after the famous 1969 music festival Woodstock.
Alienstock is set to take place from September 20 through September 22. A’Le’Inn co-owner Connie West has said she is expecting 10,000 people for the event.
The Alien Research Center is a souvenir and gift shop in Hiko, a town of about 120 people. The store is planning an event of its own on September 20 and 21.
The events resulted from an internet post inviting people to run into the hard-to-reach test area in the Nevada desert.
Area 51 has long been the center of conspiracy theories that the military uses the base to study aliens and test their technology.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said earlier this week he was meeting with state emergency planning officials.
County officials have also met with officials from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the sheriffs of two nearby counties, and the Nevada Highway Patrol.
Eric Holt, county emergency manager, asked commissioners to “pre-sign” the emergency declaration.
Higbee, who has the power to make a declaration, said it would let Lincoln County seek financial help and emergency personnel from the state.
“We don’t know where or how far our resources are going to go,” he said. “A lot of it is equipment and financing. The county only has so much money to deal with.”
Higbee added that visitors should not to try to enter Area 51.
“We don’t want them going down to government property; it will probably be blocked off,” he said. “We don’t want civilian people in contact with the military at all. That will get ugly.”
The conditional permits require festival and event organizers to provide final plans to the Lincoln County Commission by September 3.
I’m Pete Musto.
Words in This Story
alien – adj. from somewhere other than the planet Earth
county – n. an area of a state or country that is larger than a city and has its own government to deal with local matters
campsite(s) – n. a place where people can put up a movable shelter that is used outdoors, is made of cloth (such as canvas or nylon), and is held up with poles and ropes
souvenir – n. something that is kept as a reminder of a place you have visited or an event you have been to
post – n. a message on an online message board
conspiracy theories – n. theories that explain an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups
sheriff – n. an elected official who is in charge of enforcing the law in a county or town of the U.S.
highway – n. a main road that connects cities and towns
personnel – n. the people who work for a particular company or organization
ugly – adj. very bad or unpleasant