Although the “Storm Area 51” event started out as a joke on social media, the droves of people showing interest in the planned September event is no laughing matter for area officials.
“We’re not brushing this off at all,” said Pahrump Valley Fire Chief Scott Lewis, who addressed the event at a meeting this week of the Nye County Local Emergency Planning Committee. Members of the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada National Security Site, the Department of Energy and other groups also took part in the meeting.
Since millions of people pledged to attend the faux event, authorities are assuming that some amount of people will show up and they’re starting to make preparations.
“It’s speculative at this point,” Lewis said. “We’re in a monitor status and we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of what potentially could happen and we’re working with our mutual aid partners to determine what the extent of the risk might be.”
The original plan was for people to meet up at the Area 51 Travel Center in Amargosa Valley, before the meeting spot was changed to the town of Rachel, the town nearest Area 51. The travel center is about 70 miles from Area 51, according to Arnold Knightly, Nye County spokesman.
Eric Holt, emergency manager for Lincoln County, said the area is bracing for the event and the possible influx of people tied to it.
“We’re in the early stages of planning for the event and we want to ensure it’s a good, safe event,” he said. “It could impose some impacts to the county if we do see a large influx of people. So, we are trying to plan and prepare for that.”
Even a slight uptick in population tied to a surge of visitors could cause significant service disruption for emergency personnel.
Overtime for fire and law enforcement personnel also is possible for both Lincoln and Nye counties.
“We’re working out the details of that to ensure that we can provide the services needed,” Holt said. “It would definitely tax our services here and our capabilities financially as well.”
In Lincoln County, the hotels that already are sold out for that weekend could present a positive fiscal spin with a surge of taxable sales, Holt said.
“In one sense it’s going to be an influx in tax revenue and business for the local businesses,” he said. “In another sense it’s going to tax the community and the county in response and our capabilities there.”
Both areas where events could take place create geographical issues for visitors. Both towns are small and sparsely populated and don’t have retail and service businesses to handle a large group of visitors.
“It’s very remote, it’s very rural. It’s not like Las Vegas where you have a 7-Eleven or Circle K on every corner,” Holt said. “It’s very dry and desolate. The resources are very minimal. You’re not going to have water and fuel and that kind of thing. We’re concerned with those things and want everyone coming to the event to be prepared to be self-sufficient for the duration of their stay.”
Similarly, Amargosa Valley is extremely remote with limited resources to handle a large influx of people, Knightly said.
“The resources are not only limited for the unknown number of people who may enter the valley, but would impact the resources available to the nearly 1,400 residents in the valley,” he said.
Peacestock 51 Festival
Meanwhile, a trio of entrepreneurs are looking to capitalize on the possible surge of visitors by creating the Peacestock 51 Festival.
The group submitted an outdoor festival application July 31 with Nye County for the festival, which the application says is intended to “promote a family friendly, alcohol-free environment of peace and awareness during the Storm Area 51 event.”
Up to 2,500 people are expected for the event, with 100 staff members working the festival that is slated to take place between 6 p.m. Sept. 20 and 3 a.m. Sept. 21, according to the application.
The event would be held in Crystal, Nevada, about 20 miles south of the Area 51 Alien travel center.
The cost: an aptly priced $51.
“It’s a strange process how this whole thing came together,” said Ryan Kelley, one of the proposed festival’s promoters. “I think it’s the energy out here by Area 51 and that whole thing. Woodstock 50 was just canceled. There’s all kinds of things in our favor for getting a crowd in attendance.”
Kelley, who said he lives near Area 51, said they could actually grow the festival from the originally stated plans, as they have been speaking with “headlining acts,” that he said could cause up to 25,000 people to show up for the festival.
“Our original plan was with unknown artists,” he said. “But with the energy of the event now, we’re trying to pull some headliners. It could become very, very big.”
No matter how large the event might be, if it’s approved at the Aug. 20 Nye County Commission board meeting, the message the group will be promoting will be the same.
“The number one thing is to push peace, positivity and safety for our area and the people who come to our area,” Kelley said. “That’s our goal.”