Millions said they would ‘storm’ Area 51, but only 75 showed up at the gate !!
by Ed Komenda – – RENO GAZETTER JOURNAL – – September 21, 2019
RACHEL, Nevada – They prepared for 30,000.
But the number of visitors that descended on this Extraterrestrial Highway town 150 miles from Las Vegas to “storm” Area 51 peaked at 3000 (but in reality it was more like 2000 – according to most residents of Rachel), allowing authorities on Saturday to begin scaling back resources.
“We planned for 30,000 with contingencies above that,” said Lincoln County Emergency Manager Eric Holt. “Anything less than that was acceptable.”
In the end, the ‘storm’ was more of a September shower.
The middle-of-the-night meme that exploded into a viral space spectacle in this far-flung Nevada town served as both a challenge to law enforcement and county leaders with many lessons learned and an opportunity for otherworld seekers to be a part of something they thought could become the next Burning Man or Woodstock.
No aliens appeared. No flying saucer beams illuminated the desert sky. But to the people who showed up to open a new chapter in the extraterrestrial saga, being here was enough.
“Fifty years from now,” said Pahrump resident Stacey Villines, “we can say we were here.”
Tensions were high on the first night of “Storm Area 51” activities in Rachel, where about 100 people (in reality, more like 75) visited the back gate of the top-secret military compound in the middle of night.
But by the time the sun came up, only one man had been arrested – for urinating in public.
On Friday night, as temperatures in the desert dropped to the upper 30s, the scene outside Area 51 was calm with minimal activity. The cold intervened as an unexpected crime deterrent.
“It definitely put a damper on their party and their enjoyment,” said Holt, the emergency manager. “That was an ally to us.”
Meanwhile, an amalgam of all-in festival campers and tourists who stopped for a glimpse of the mysterious gathering remained “orderly” as the live music from Alienstock burned into the night.
Heading into the third day of the festival on Saturday, authorities began sending first responders home.
“We were planning for the unknown, planning for something where we didn’t know how many people were coming, what their intention was,” Holt said. “We were ready to respond to a large influx of people. Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
As of Saturday, six people had been arrested – all but one for trespassing. Car crashes included two vehicle-versus-cow incidents and a rollover that sent a man to the hospital.
Over the next several weeks, authorities expect people to keep coming to Rachel to visit the military compound gates. The town – in the aftermath of Alienstock and Storm Area 51 – has in many ways leveled up as a tourist attraction.
Lincoln County Chairman Varlin Higbee, a fifth-generation Nevadan always in a cowboy hat, called Alienstock a success.
“We pulled this off without losing one life other than a cow,” Higbee said Saturday. “We’re over the hump – unless it gets crazy tonight.”
To Higbee, the challenges that come with preparing for the unknowns of a viral event sweeping into a small town taught leaders here an important lesson – an “eye-opener.”
“We live in pretty secluded, protected communities and societies out here, and all of a sudden the door to the world is throwed right open at you and you’ve got millions of people possibly coming – it’s like panic. Well, now we know we don’t need to panic. Whatever happens, we can face it.”
When California college student Matty Roberts created the “Storm Area 51 – They Can’t Stop All of Us” Facebook event, he was bored.
Little did he know his joke would manifest into a cure for boredom.
That’s precisely why 22-year-old Hazel Dianna and her 20-year-old friend Hunter Riley drove up from Las Vegas.
But all of them were there for the same reason: To be a part of something.
“No matter what happens, this will never be the same again,” said Robert Hauser, a 72-year-old extraterrestrial junky from Salt Lake City, who visited Rachel with his 36-year-old son, David – both men wearing tin foil hats.
“We wanted to be a part of the group.”
FINAL COMMENTS FROM JOERG ARNU, RESIDENT OF RACHEL, NEVADA:
The Rachel event attracted about 2,000 visitors to a less than organized event site. It was essentially a dusty dirt lot with amateur bands playing on a makeshift stage and a couple of food vendors.
There was very little infrastructure but fortunately most visitors seemed to have come prepared. Many of the visitors chose to camp on surrounding public land instead of paying for a camp site.
All weekend long increasingly annoyed local residents were bothered by tourists racing through town on the dirt roads. Rachel became a dust bowl.
By official statements this event cost the county upward of $250,000 for EMT, rescue units, overtime for local law enforcement and cost for calling in various departments and agencies from out of state. On top of that is cost for equipment, meals for first responders etc.
After the event ended the town was left with trash blowing all over town. The organizers do not make any attempts to pick it up and within a few days the wind will have it spread all over the valley.
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