Web Exclusive: ‘Storm Area 51’ raises safety concerns for Rachel, Nevada

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It is now exactly one month from the day millions of people say they’ll storm Area 51. The man who created the now-viral Facebook page says it was supposed to be a joke.

But that joke has turned into much more and it’s raised concerns for those living near the base.

Organizers and county officials met Monday in Pioche, Nevada to discuss what happens ahead of any “Storm Area 51” events, such as “Alienstock” which is supposed to include live bands. Lincoln County, Nevada officials are worried it has become something they can’t handle.

They’ve pre-approved an emergency declaration ahead of the events scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 20 and have found some money in the county coffers to help support their efforts.

“It’s kind of like you feed the sharks, it’s a little hard to pull it back,” said Varlin Higbee, Lincoln County commission chair.

The commissioners are trying to tackle the tough task of preparing for a potential inundation of people for events related to “Storm Area 51.”

Hopefully it’s something that, you know, blows by and it’s 4,000 to 5,000 people, but if it gets to the 30,000 people mark, I mean we’re trying to be prepared for every step of the way,” said Jared Brackenbury, Lincoln County commissioner.

“One of my concerns is if we don’t plan and prepare for this, and we have a large influx of tens of thousands of people, it could pose a real threat to our local residents,” said Eric Holt, Lincoln County emergency manager.

Lincoln County has around 6,000 residents and Sheriff Kerry Lee has less than 30 deputies. He says he’s preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

“My life has been dedicated to this for the last few weeks, and it’s troubling because there are other things going on that I need to be focusing on and so it is, it’s very taxing and very troublesome sometimes,” he said.

“Our concerns are really mostly with the safety of the residents and of the visitors that come out for this event,” said Joerg Arnu, Rachel resident.

The tiny town of Rachel has 56 full-time residents. Arnu is one of a half-dozen who made the trek to Pioche to voice concerns over safety and lack of infrastructure.

“So, we’ll have 10 times the amount of residents that we normally have in this county, visiting this county, none of the services in this county are anywhere remotely designed to handle that amount of people,” he said.

The Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel is one of two businesses that was granted permits to host some of the tens of thousands expected next month.

“I understand my community members’ concerns, I have the same concerns, I live there too, I’m just trying to keep it harnessed in one area,” said Connie West, owner of the Little A’Le’Inn.

Alien Research Center owner George Harris has spent $100,000 on preparations for a more all-ages event at his facility in Hiko, about 40 miles away from the Little A’Le’Inn. He tells commissioners he believes the vast majority of visitors will be well-behaved.

“We have to worry about the knuckleheads, you know, the knuckleheads who get up at 3 o’clock in the morning and go on the desert floor, they’re going to get bit by snakes and just like you said, Mr. Higby, you can’t, you can’t control stupidity,” he said.

The planning and preparation are of little consolation to Arnu.

“I really don’t feel that any of our concerns were addressed.”

The sheriff tells 8 News Now he’s getting help from three counties including from Clark County as well as law enforcement officers from the state.

 The problem with that — where will they all stay?

In a neighboring county, Nye County, the application for an Outdoor Festival License for the proposed Peacestock51 Festival has been denied. The permit was denied by the Board of County Commissioners by a 3-1 vote Tuesday.

The event organizers wanted to hold the event in Crystal/Amargosa Valley the same weekend of Storm Area 51, which is Sept. 20-21.

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