With only 10 days until “Storm Area 51” happens, the pressure’s on in the tiny county in rural Nevada that’s expecting some 15,000 alien enthusiasts to swarm the place.
Lincoln County, Nevada (pop. roughly 5,000) is stocking up on fuel, beefing up its communications systems, and expanding its police presence and jail space — all in an effort to avoid the “humanitarian disaster” that the guy who started the whole thing is worried about.
The county authorities are expecting 15,000 to flock to two events — one that was planned for Rachel, Nevada, the other in nearby Hiko — both spawned from the viral Facebook event calling on people to storm “Area 51,” a secret government base in the Nevada desert that’s been the subject of conspiracy theories for years. In a place where there’s barely any food or gasoline, and few motels, that’ll take some boosting of its emergency response teams and infrastructure to prepare.
“It’s going to be a very, very, very busy next 10 days,” Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The sheriff’s department is setting up four new command posts around the county to police the events. They’re importing some 4,000 gallons of fuel, just for the emergency response teams. They’ve brought in trailers for staffers to work out of. And since the county jail holds only 130 — and there are currently about 100 inmates in custody there now — they’re looking at alternatives for where they’ll hold people on the minor offenses that they expect to charge people with.
Local authorities even got Verizon to step in to bolster their communication network in the middle of the desert, according to the Review-Journal. They’ll have satellite phones on hand, and they’re expanding internet connectivity in the county.
And it’s likely that the county will wind up footing the bill for the whole operation. They’re expecting local officials to log as much as $30,000 in overtime, the sheriff told the local paper.
“Right now the county is soaking up the entire bill,” Lee told the Review-Journal.
The guy who started the “Storm Area 51” Facebook event as a joke a few months ago, Matty Roberts, tried again on Monday to pull the plug on the festival that snowballed out of the joke. He’s hoping to redirect people away from Rachel, Nevada, toward an event on the same day in Las Vegas.
Still, there’s another event planned in next-door Hiko — called Area 51 Basecamp — and the movement to “see them aliens,” as the original Facebook event called for, is largely out of organizers’ control.
“We are not interested in, nor will we tolerate any involvement in, a FYREFEST 2.0,” Roberts said in a statement. “We foresee a possible humanitarian disaster in the works, and we can’t participate in any capacity at this point.”
Cover: In this July 22, 2019 photo, Linda Looney restocks shirts at the Alien Research Center, a gift shop on the Extraterrestrial Highway, in Crystal Springs, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher)
This article originally appeared on VICE US.