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It all started with a joke on Facebook, but the plan to “Storm Area 51” has now turned into a nightmare for Lincoln County, Nevada.
The county has just 184 hotel rooms, two gas stations, one grocery store, and one hospital. Yet more than 1.9 million have responded on Facebookthat they’re “going” to storm the highly classified Air Force base, where conspiracy theorists believe the government is hiding aliens for research, in September.
But the question for Lincoln County is, how can it accommodate all of these alien enthusiasts?
“‘Storm Area 51’ was a shot to the hip,” Lincoln County Commissioner Varlin Higbee told VICE News. “I don’t know how this is going to work. They’ll suck the bottom out of those gas stations in a heartbeat.”
If any county, big or small, had a population influx of over a million on a weekend, it would do damage, according to Higbee. Lincoln County is the seventh largest in the nation — but its population of 5,223 doesn’t bring it nearly enough resources.
To accommodate sleeping arrangements for the masses of people planning to show up, the county is working on making campsites available on people’s private property. County commissioners are also working on making public land available to campers via special recreation permits.
The Little A’Le’Inn is a 10-room motel right down the road from Area 51 in Rachel, a town of 54 residents. It’s already fully booked but also rents out campsite space. Currently, the owner is trying to clear out more campsite land for “Storm Area 51” attendees.
“I think the vast majority of people will probably never show,” Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told the Las Vegas Sun. “But if merely 500 or 1,000 show up, we could have issues.” His department only has 26 sworn police officers.
Despite the memes that have amassed online gaming up for the event, the government isn’t joking around. There’s a sign outside the Area 51 gate reads, “We are authorized to use lethal force.”
After the Facebook event attracted millions of attendees, the Air Force was not amused: “We would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” a spokesperson told the Washington Post.
Higbee said the Nevada governor might even have to mobilize the National Guard. “If you get that many people, you have no idea what kind of security you’re gonna need,” he said.
Plus, the county’s EMS runs solely on volunteers. In the case of medical emergencies, those injured will need to be transported by helicopter to Las Vegas, according to Higbee. “You’re out in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
And he has one piece of advice: bring water. “This is the desert, and it’s not very forgiving,” Higbee said.
Whether or not these conspiracy theorists make it past the gate, the Arby’s food truck is planning to feed them with “the best meats on Earth.”
Cover image: In this July 22, 2019 photo, Grace Capati looks at a UFO display outside of the Little A'Le'Inn, in Rachel, Nev., the closest town to Area 51. (AP Photo/John Locher)