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Tiny Desert Towns Around Area 51 Are Stressed About The Viral Facebook Event

"On the county level we're prepared for two to three times the population of the entire county ... Our gas stations will run out of gas, our grocery stores will run out of groceries."

Posted on August 20, 2019, at 6:13 p.m. ET

David Becker / Getty Images

The tiny community of Lincoln County, Nevada, is bracing itself for potentially tens of thousands of people to torpedo through for the viral "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop Us" Facebook effort.

Officials of the county are so nervous about the potential impact on their towns and people that they're trying to put emergency measures in place.

Lincoln County Commission Chair Varlin Higbee told BuzzFeed News that the closest residential township to Area 51 is Rachel, Nevada, which has a population of just 50 people. The population of the entire county potentially impacted by the internet stunt is a little over 5,000 people.

Millions of people have RSVP'd to the Facebook event, but its unclear how many, if any, will actually show up. Regardless, Higbee wants to be prepared.

"On the county level we're prepared for two to three times the population of the entire county," said Higbee. "10,000 to 30,000 people are showing up... Our gas stations will run out of gas, our grocery stores will run out of groceries."

He said they're still in the midst of the emergency planning process and have not finalized plans yet. Their main concerns are locals' and visitors' safety and housing capacities.

"We're mostly getting the logistics together of where we need to set up," he said. "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."

Higbee added that he'll be working closely with different federal agencies, specifically in highway patrol, and neighboring counties to see if they can provide resources or intel.

The Facebook event invites any interested attendees to "all meet up in Rural Nevada" and "see them aliens" in the highly classified US Air Force facility. Over 2 million people have clicked in their attendance — but of course a vast majority are likely joking.

Still, it's possible that a number of people plan to actually travel to "storm Area 51" on September 20. Those are the people Lincoln County and Higbee are concerned about. The county commission chair is putting responsibility on the Facebook organizers as well.

"We issued permits to the event planners. I'm putting responsibility on them to take care of some of the resources inside the event, like emergency management and their own security, that type of thing. That's part of the permissions of their permit," he explained.

He added that the Facebook planners have been "extremely cooperative" with him and local organizers.

They'll all meet again to finalize the requirements of the permit in early September, he said. In the meantime, Higbee wanted to stress to serious stormers of Area 51 that it is a heavily guarded area — and to please manage their expectations.

"People need to understand that — and I hope you write this in your article — it is a military installation, a base, and they will protect their perimeter. They don’t care who you are. They don’t care if you’re civilians."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.