LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Help is on the way for Lincoln County as it braces for the unexpected. An unknown number of visitors is expected to descend on the rural Nevada county next month for two events related to the Area 51 military base.
The idea started as an online, UFO-themed joke, then morphed into something else altogether. Officials worry about the risks associated with an influx of several thousand people, bigger than the county’s entire population. Lincoln County has around 6,000 residents. The two events, approved for the weekend of Sept. 20, could draw anywhere from 3,000 to 30,000 visitors. The real problem is no one knows for sure how many will show up. But even a smaller estimate will put a huge strain on official resources.
When an armada of RV’s stormed into Area 51 in the movie “Independence Day,” security forces didn’t try to stop them. But the base won’t be so accommodating if it happens for real.
Ever since the story of Bob Lazar debuted on KLAS-TV in 1989, tens of thousands UFO curious visitors have flocked to the outskirts of the Groom Lake base. It”s why the Extraterrestrial Highway was created, why ET souvenirs boomed, and it’s the reason for the signs warning about the use of deadly force being authorized. Over the decades, those who’ve crossed the line always get caught.
The spark for this renewed interest was an interview by popular podcaster Joe Rogan about a new Lazar documentary. Local officials don’t know what’s going to happen.
“We hope this event doesn’t attract a whole bunch of people that actually try to storm Area 51,” said Jared Brackenbury, Lincoln County commissioner.
Anyone who does will be in serious trouble. There are sensors hidden on public land miles from the perimeter that alert the base to anyone approaching. There are high-tech cameras and other sensors, some designed to blend in with desert terrain. The so-called cammo dudes are ready to pounce if anyone crosses the line, and armed air force security beyond them who are equipped with fast-moving helicopters, high-flying drones and powerful warplanes.
Rachel resident and webmaster Joerg Arnu thinks exotic non-lethal weapons could come into play.
“Seriously, they have all this technology that deters people from getting any closer,” Arnu said. “And if they can do that with the really bad guys in the field, I’m sure they can do that with a bunch of people that come out here for hours.”
People who’ve crossed the line accidentally get detained, searched, then ticketed. Those who do it on purpose get arrested. Even if there are no trespassers, Lincoln County knew it needed help.
“We’re reaching out to all our partners, federal state and local agencies, finding out what resources they’d be able to send,” said Sheriff Kerry Lee, Lincoln County.
The I-Team has learned Sheriff Lee met in Las Vegas last week with three dozen other stakeholders including Metro police, the Nevada Highway Patrol, various emergency responder agencies, and Nellis Air Force Base officials. Sheriff Joe Lombardo agreed to send a hefty contingent of Metro officers to help keep the peace. State officials are in charge of coordinating the overall response. Nellis declined to comment but local business owners have been assured that extra military units and equipment will be brought in.
In the meantime, plans are taking shape. A music festival dubbed Alienstock is planned for tiny Rachel, against the wishes of many residents. The owner of The Little A’Le’Inn, the town’s only business, is clearing land to accommodate campers and music fans.
Near Hiko, the Alien Visitors Center, has unveiled detailed plans and a website for its own event, Area 51 Base Camp, with speakers, food, films, and other attractions designed to keep visitors away from the base itself.
In neighboring Nye County, a planned music event called Peacestock, to be held in a empty patch of desert near Crystal, was rejected by county officials. At the Area 51 visitors center in Amargosa Valley, business is brisk. Storm Area 51 tee-shirts and related merchandise are hot items with tourists, and the Alien Cathouse had several cars out front as well. This location was named as a rendezvous point by the Facebook page which started the Storm Area 51 movement, but if it has any formal plans, they’ve yet to be announced.
The idea continues to generate its own momentum. Memes, songs and music videos continue to pop up and the general theme has already seeped into the consciousness of all ages.