RACHEL, Nev. – Yes, people are seriously planning to go to Area 51 on September 20, and Rachel, Nevada, has no vacancy to prove it.
The small town was shocked when it realized people were coming, as satirically suggested by a Facebook page titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The Air Force Base in the desert has spurred conspiracy theories as a UFO and alien holding site for decades.
“I cannot believe it’s gotten this much attention. We deal with this on a weekly basis but nothing to this scale,” Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told CNN.
However, the big problem remains: If more people come, where will they stay?
Rachel has a population of 54 and is surrounded by ghost towns and desert. The town boasts only four businesses in its city limits, and the Little A’Le’Inn is the only one that provides lodging and food.
According to its website, the inn is “booked solid” for September 20, the day suggested for the raid. The inn has 14 rooms, and camping space is now the last available option.
To make matters worse, Rachel’s only gas station closed in 2006, so visitors will have to fill their tanks 50 miles away in Alamo, Nevada.
The next closest town to get lodging is also Alamo, and most of the hotels are already booked or have very low availability.
Safety of the tourists is a top concern
Sheriff Lee said that the normal draw for that time of year is hunting and mountain biking, but it only brings in a few hundred tourists. Even a thousand visitors could put a strain on emergency services.
“We could probably handle it, but it could definitely cause issues. Heaven forbid the number is 5,000 people where you almost double the size of the county,” Lee said.
But the number of people isn’t even Lee’s main concern. He said exposure to the environment is what he is worried about.
“I could see people with a lot of heat-related issues, and with our limited resources up here it could definitely jeopardize their safety. The number of people could overwhelm our EMS in a hurry,” he said.
Lee, along with the Air Force, urges people not to storm the facility. He encourages people to come “see the stars” or take in the terrain, but not to try and get into Area 51. If they do, they may be meeting Lee and his officers because they could be called to help with trespassers.