This is what happens when you mix stupidity with the internet.
A month or so back, you may remember, there was a huge to-do about an event created on Facebook titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The jokey happening set for September would involve, well, storming Area 51 — the secret military test facility inside the Nellis Military Operations Area in Nevada — so everyone could uncover all of the secrets there, or something.
As one poster on the event page said: “We can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.”
This event was obviously meant as a bit of a lark. However, unlike most other Facebook memes, “Storm Area 51” is going to have real-world consequences — particularly for the locales that have to deal with it.
The population of Lincoln County, Nevada, is about 5,200. Officials there are expecting tens of thousands of people to show up in September, all because of this ridiculous joke.
That’s why the county’s board has decided to draft a declaration of a state of emergency in advance of the events taking place next month, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Oh, we’re taking this seriously,” Lincoln County Commission Chairman Varlin Higbee said, according to the newspaper.
“With the possibility of 35,000-40,000 people showing up, yeah, this is serious.”
“We asked the commissioners to pre-sign the emergency declaration form, which in the event that we deplete our resources, both emergency response and financial, we could reach out to the state for assistance,” Eric Holt, Lincoln County’s emergency manager, told the Review-Journal.
“We had them sign it, but we haven’t actually declared it as an emergency at this time. It’s more preparatory in the event for the time that we have to declare an emergency, we don’t have to wait for the next commission meeting to happen.”
Higbee said the important point is for the county to be prepared.
“We haven’t actually set a trigger point [for declaring an emergency] yet,” Higbee told the newspaper.
“We don’t know where or how far our resources are going to go. A lot of it is equipment and financing. The county only has so much money to deal with, and if you start paying a lot of money for overtime … your financing can go pretty fast.”
There have been two events associated with the Storm Area 51 phenomenon that have been conditionally approved by the county.
Alienstock, which is being held at Sept. 20-22 in Rachel, Nevada, will feature Burning Man-type stuff like music, art and “surprise performances.”
In addition to Alienstock, there’s also going to be a UFology Expo at the Alien Research Center in Hiko, roughly a 45-minute drive from Rachel.
I’m sure this is all great fun for the kind of people who get a laugh out of “We can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens,” but probably not for folks in Lincoln County.
“Our gas stations will run out of gas, our grocery stores will run out of groceries,” Higbee told BuzzFeed News.
“We’re mostly getting the logistics together of where we need to set up,” he added.
“It’s a big area — 45 miles. The sheriff’s department is paid, but the EMT is all volunteers. If you get into an accident on the highway, who are you going to call? Who’s going to respond to car accidents and house fires? Those are the things we’re worried about most.”
And this is assuming there won’t be trouble, or there aren’t going to be people showing up who don’t take the original intent of the event seriously.
If they do, the military has already warned them that this won’t end well.
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews told The Washington Post last month.
“The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
The problem here isn’t necessarily America’s assets, however, it’s Lincoln County’s assets.
This is a large county with a small population facing a very significant influx of people because of a stupid joke. Whatever benefit the county might have derived from this economically is offset by the fact that it simply doesn’t have the resources to deal with these events.
So now, they’re drafting a state of emergency declaration because of an Facebook joke that got out of hand. Nice work, internet.
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