Area 51 events in Nevada prompt emergency crowd planning
Lincoln County making plans for huge crowds who could show up for Storm Area 51 event
Fearing they could be overwhelmed with visitors, officials in the remote Nevada county that's home to the Area 51 military base have drafted an emergency declaration and plan to team resources with neighbouring counties along with the state ahead of events next month tied to the Storm Area 51 internet drive.
The elected board governing Lincoln County, home to about 5,200 residents, conditionally approved on Monday two events for tiny desert towns near the once top-secret U.S. Air Force test area known in popular lore as a site for government studies of outer space aliens.
"Oh, we're taking this seriously," Lincoln County Commission chairman Varlin Higbee told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "With the possibility of 35,000 to 40,000 people showing up, yeah, this is serious."
Cellphone system can't handle large crowd
County officials are concerned a surge of visitors will crowd campsites, gas stations and public medical, internet and cellphone services. Officials count just 184 hotel rooms in the county nearly twice the size 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 in the community of Rachel, population about 50, is scheduling a three-day music festival Sept. 20-22 dubbed Alienstock. Hotel co-owner Connie West has said she's expecting 10,000 people.
The Alien Research Center souvenir shop in Hiko, a town of about 120 about 62 kilometres from Rachel, plans a Sept. 20-21 exposition.
Meanwhile, a Nevada county has rejected a proposal for a festival in a rural farming community to coincide with the Storm Area 51 events next month.
The Nye County Commission on Tuesday denied a permit for an event organizers called Peacestock 51, which was planned to be held in Amargosa Valley, a small town located around 110 kilometres from the Area 51 military base.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports commissioners raised concerns about resident safety, dust, environmental damage and the remoteness of the site 140 kilometres from Las Vegas.
The denial came a day after neighbouring Lincoln County drafted an emergency declaration but gave conditional approval for events in tiny towns near a remote military test area that has long been a focus of UFO conspiracy theories.
Evolved from Facebook event
The events evolved from an internet post inviting people to run into the remote test area in the Nevada desert that has long been the focus of UFO conspiracy theories.
County Sheriff Kerry Lee said Tuesday he was meeting with state emergency planning officials.
County officials have also met with officials from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in Clark County, the sheriffs of White Pine and Nye counties, and the Nevada Highway Patrol.
Eric Holt, county emergency manager, asked commissioners to "pre-sign" the emergency declaration.
Need for financial help
Higbee, who has authority to invoke 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 said 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 submit final plans to the Lincoln County Commission by Sept. 3.
"They have to have their security, medical, parking plans and few other things" ready, Higbee said.