CARSON CITY — Nevada’s governor says the state might not reimburse two rural counties seeking disaster relief aid over “Storm Area 51” events that attracted less-thananticipated crowds in September to remote towns near a formerly topsecret military base.
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday panned requests from Lincoln and Nye counties, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, particularly Lincoln County officials who approved permits for events in the tiny towns of Rachel and Hiko and allocated emergency funds for possible crowds of 30,000 responding to an internet hoax about finding aliens.
“I don’t know how this was an emergency when you gave an approval despite our concerns regarding this issue, and then expect the taxpayers of the state to basically bail out your county commission’s approval,” the governor said.
Sisolak spokesman Ryan McInerney called the discussion a first-step review. He told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the governor was “grateful to law enforcement and first responders at the local and state level for their coordination leading up to the Storm Area 51 events.”
In the end, the number of people who flocked to the desert peaked at an estimated 3,000 in Rachel, and some 500 attended a concert prepared for up to 5,000 in Hiko, a more than two-hour drive north of Las Vegas.
Lincoln County emergency manager Eric Holt said officials are seeking $200,000 from the state.
No immediate vote was taken by the governor, state attorney general and secretary of state, who meet as the state Board of Examiners. The panel handles state budgeting issues when the Legislature is not in session.
Officials in both counties declared emergencies in advance, fearing that unruly crowds would arrive following an internet post suggesting that authorities couldn’t stop everyone if enough people rushed Area 51, a sprawling military base long the focus of UFO and space alien lore.
After more than 2 million Facebook users said they were interested, Lincoln County commissioners worried that water, electricity, food, fuel, internet and telephone service would be overwhelmed. The county has 5,200 residents in an area the size of Massachusetts.
Permits made event organizers in Rachel and Hiko responsible for security, medical and sanitation services, Holt said.
Nye County lawmakers denied permits for an event in Amargosa Valley, and the sheriff there said deputies dispersed some 200 people who gathered before dawn one morning near the gates of the military base.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told the Review-Journal that costs could have been greater if law enforcement from around the state had not arrived in advance to respond to emergency calls if needed.