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Nye County declares emergency in readiness for Storm Area 51

The Storm Area 51 event, which has taken the country by storm, is just weeks away and Nye County is bracing for a potential inundation of thousands of tourists who are anticipated to make their way to the area as a result.

While some may think the Storm Area 51 phenomenon a point of amusement, for Nye County officials it is no laughing matter. During a special meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 28, the Nye County Commission took preemptive action to prepare for the anticipated onslaught of people, voting unanimously to approve the signing of a declaration of emergency.

“Pre-signing the declaration allows the county to expedite the process of requesting help from the state should an emergency arise, including reimbursement for some costs incurred during the event,” a post to the county’s Facebook page detailed. It is important to note that though the declaration has been signed, it is not officially in effect and will only be placed into effect if the Storm Area 51 frenzy does, in fact, create an emergency situation in the county.

“We believe this is a prudent procedure to undertake,” Nye County Emergency Management Director and Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Service Chief Scott Lewis stated at that meeting. “No. 1, it gives us the ability in the event of a true disaster or something that is overwhelming our systems to simply execute. This is a preparedness piece and we suggest and recommend you move forward with the item today.”

Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo asked Lewis to expand on the information his department and the Nye County Sheriff’s Office have received, so the county would have a better idea of what should be expected.

“The information is ongoing and honestly, almost daily we are receiving additional information through law enforcement intel and also through the state,” Lewis responded. “I wish I could have a crystal ball to tell you if anything is going to be accurate, it remains speculative. However… the information we are receiving piecemeal would suggest that, quite frankly, we could have overwhelming population surges in various parts of the county and that is what we are preparing for.”

Lewis emphasized that the concern is not centered solely on managing the Storm Area 51 event and the festivals that have grown out of that. “It’s also managing our routine and day-to-day calls that may occur as well. Our biggest concern is to have an incident within the event that would require all resources to manage that, whatever it might be, whether it’s a significant fire, motor vehicle accident, any other type of mass casualty incident,” Lewis explained. “We are taking this seriously and we are preparing as such.”

Nye County Sheriff’s Capt. David Boruchowitz added his concurrence, telling the commission, “It’s our advice obviously for people not to come. As a law enforcement entity, we are hopeful that people will heed the law and this will not be an issue but, like the chief mentioned, at this point the information we are getting is that we likely could have a problem.”

Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig was obviously not taking the situation as a joke either, and he made sure to issue a warning of sorts to those who plan to travel to the area.

“People who are coming here have to realize that when they get here, number one, there will be no cell service. The cell towers are not equipped for a whole bunch of people to be here so be prepared not to have cell service, not to have internet,” Koenig predicted. “There will probably be no water available, there will probably be no ice available, everything is going to sell out. There will be no gas left at the gas station, no food, nowhere to go potty. So if you are coming, be prepared because it’s not going to be nice.”

“Come self-contained,” commissioner Debra Strickland stated.

Blundo added his own words of caution as well, telling county residents, “Stock up, fill your gas tanks, get a little extra gas on the side, fill the fridge, get water bottles. Be prepared. Be prepared to be part of a community and come together. I think it’s important, that community sense and spirit. Anything we can do to help the chief and the sheriff to assist in this matter and help our fellow neighbor.”

Blundo made the motion to approve the declaration of emergency which passed 4-0 with commissioner Lorinda Wichman absent.

Although Area 51 is in Lincoln County rather than Nye County, when Matty Roberts, the creator of the Storm Area 51 event, originally published it to Facebook, he directed attendees to meet at the Area 51 Alien Travel Center in the Nye County town of Amargosa.

Roberts has since redirected people to meet in Rachel in Lincoln County for the Alienstock festival he devised as a method of dissuading people from actually attempting to breach the military base where Area 51 is located.

However, concern remains that thousands of alien enthusiasts may still make their way to the various towns of Nye County the weekend of Sept. 19, 20 and 21 and officials want to be prepared for that possibility.

The declaration of emergency empowers the county to enact a variety of emergency restrictive measures in order to protect the public. The actions authorized by the declaration may be undertaken by the Nye County Commission or, in the event that the commission is not able to take action in a timely manner, Nye County Manager Tim Sutton may do so. If both Sutton and the commission cannot immediately address a problem that threatens the peace and safety of the public, then Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly will be authorized to act on their behalf.

Emergency orders sanctioned by the declaration include actions such as establishing a curfew, barricading the streets, prohibiting the sale of alcohol, redirecting funds for emergency use and even ordering the closure of all or portion of gas stations and other businesses that sell, distribute or dispose of liquid flammable or combustible products.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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