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‘Storm Area 51’ fizzles in Nye County

After weeks of preparation amid swirling uncertainty as Nye County officials braced for a potential influx of alien enthusiasts and revelers, the Storm Area 51 weekend turned out to be a fairly quiet affair in Nye County.

The only incident of note within the limits of the county occurred in the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 20 when a small crowd of “gate stormers” gathered at the Area 51 Alien Travel Center in Amargosa.

This was the location where Matty Roberts, creator of the “Storm Area 51 – They Can’t Stop Us All” Facebook event, had originally directed people to meet. Although the focus of the Storm Area 51 festivities that grew out of what was supposed to have been a joke ultimately shifted to Rachel, Hiko and even into downtown Las Vegas, there was still some concern regarding potential impact to Amargosa and other Nye County towns.

However, when Nye County Sheriff’s Office officers responded to the scene in Amargosa that Friday, they reported that they met with the assembly and were able to break up the crowd without issue.

“On Sept. 20, 2019, at approximately 3 a.m., Nye County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the Alien Travel Center on Highway 373 in Amargosa. A crowd of approximately 40 people surrounded the parking lot of the travel center and made threats to storm the gates of Area 51,” a news release from the Nye County Sheriff’s Office detailed. “The crowd was compliant with commands from deputies and eventually dispersed.

“Some participants then assembled at the north and south gates but heeded warnings upon confrontation with law enforcement and retreated,” the release continued. “Several participants moved back and forth between the two gates and crowds continued to gather. At approximately 5 a.m., all participants had retreated and dispersed. Everyone was compliant and peaceful. All Nye County resources were accounted for and returned to their assigned posts.”

No other reports involving Storm Area 51 attendees were made by Nye County law enforcement or area first responders.

Throughout the remainder of that Friday, Nye County Sheriff’s Capt. David Boruchowitz said the Alien Travel Center was busy and seeing brisk business. Outside of that, he said there was no milling around by a crowd, with a majority of those stopping by the travel center merely purchasing supplies and snapping photos with the alien memorabilia before moving on.

Heading out to the travel center the following Saturday, the Pahrump Valley Times was met with a calm, low-key scene, observing that much of the traffic had slowed in pace by that morning.

Despite fears that the Storm Area 51 weekend would prompt a shortage in certain supplies and services in the tiny towns of Nye County, there were no reports of any stores in the county running out of gasoline, food or water and no reports of cell phone service outages due to the event.

The county had established an Emergency Operations Center in Pahrump on Tuesday, Sept. 17 in readiness for any potential problems, which was managed by the unified command of Nye County Emergency Management Director Scott Lewis and Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly.

By Saturday afternoon, the Emergency Operations Center had been demobilized and law enforcement officers had returned to their normal duties.

“Nye County was prepared for scenarios related to Area 51. I am extremely proud of our volunteer and career forces who stepped up to ensure the safety and protection of our communities,” Lewis, who is also the Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Service chief, told the Pahrump Valley Times.

“Nye Administrative and staff, including the chairman of the Nye County Commission, were fully committed to our successes and spent countless hours in the Emergency Operations Center,” Lewis stated. “There were no reports of injuries to any Nye County responder assigned to the Area 51 detail. Most likely, ‘Area 51’ was the largest preparedness and response event ever managed by Nye County and the county received accolades from our state and mutual aid partners.”

Information is currently being gathered regarding the cost to the county for preparations and items such as overtime for the additional first responders assigned to duty throughout the weekend.

“The full cost of the county’s preparedness efforts for the rumored influx of people for Storm Area 51 events will be made public when available during the next few weeks,” a posting to the Nye County Facebook page detailed. “The expenses will include staff time from Nye County Emergency Management, sheriff’s office, county administration, including the county manager’s office and finance, and first responders throughout rural Nye County. Other costs include the acquisition and mobilization of resources, renting of hotel rooms for state and federal personnel to assist the county, as well as other expenses.”

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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