I-Team: Government Shutdown Impacts Mysterious Area 51 - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Government Shutdown Impacts Mysterious Area 51

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RACHEL, Nev. -- One area that is feeling the pinch because of the government shutdown in Nevada is Lincoln County, north of Las Vegas, which is home to the best known and most mysterious military base in the world.

As the I-Team first reported last week, it appears that a lot of the work underway at Area 51 is on hold for now, but that doesn't mean there is nobody home.

A high-tech sentinel is silhouetted atop a ridge adjacent to the best known entrance point to Area 51, on the flip side of a gravel roadway, the tell-tale vehicle of the omnipresent camo dudes, the security force that patrols the perimeter of the Groom Lake facility to keep the curious out.

Even with the unavoidable warning signs, hidden sensors, and armed security teams, there are still some who think the government shutdown might be a once in a lifetime chance to slip onto the base and see what is going on.

"Security is actually more intense than it was because people do expect there to be nobody there," proprietor at Little A'le'inn Connie West said.

West doesn't work at Area 51, but she presides over the unofficial clearinghouse for all things related to the mystery base, that is, the Little A'le'inn in nearby Rachel. For 24 years, it has been a place where Groom Lake workers grab a beer or a bite, especially those employees who live in Lincoln County. West says her customers have been out of work since Oct. 1.

"The ones that work there are unemployed right now because they are government contractors," West said.

She says she wasn't told that by any workers but knows it by what she sees.

"You kind of, sort of know. Their cars are at home. They're at home. Some are in a massive depression, some are scrambling," she said.

Two Groom Lake employees confirmed to us off camera that they were let go on the first, along with a few hundred co-workers. One confirmation of that is the lot where the locals park when they get on the bus to head into the base. It has been empty.

The private airfield near McCarran International Airport, the one with the ominous warning signs, is traditionally how Las Vegas employees get to Groom Lake, but aviation watchers say there have been few if any of the Janet flights since Oct. 1.

They add that, other than a few unidentified flapping objects, there has been little aerial activity of any kind in the area, which is unusual for Rachel.

A recent Popular Science article speculated about the exotic planes being developed at Area 51. An invisible unmanned fighter, for instance, or a special ops infiltrator craft, whatever they are testing at 51 seems to be grounded, for now.

In a sparsely populated area like Lincoln County, the loss of a few hundred jobs is a big deal. Many of the locals who work there aren't scientists, they're construction workers who live paycheck to paycheck, and they're hurting.

"'Hey Connie, I've got some firewood to sell. Want some firewood? I need to feed my kids.' So, of course, I'll buy it," West said.

West says her customers are crossing their fingers, hoping the stalemate in Washington can end soon, so they can get back to the jobs they can't talk about at a base that doesn't exist.

The Air Force does not answer questions about activities at Area 51. The most it will say is that it has "an operating location" near Groom Lake. It is believed that about 2,000 people work there, though the number fluctuates from year to year, project to project.

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