Visitors descending on the remote Nevada desert for "Storm Area 51" are from Earth, not outer space. No one knows what to expect, but the two tiny towns of Rachel and Hiko near the once-secret military research site are preparing for an influx of people over the next few days. "It's happening. We already have people from all over the world," a local motel proprietor tells the AP. Neighbors, elected officials, and event organizers said the craze sparked by an internet joke inviting people to "see them aliens" might become a cultural marker, a monumental dud, or something in between. Area 51's secrecy has long fueled fascination about extraterrestrial life, UFOs, and conspiracy theories.
Some neighbors and officials in two counties near Area 51 are nervous. Elected officials signed emergency declarations after millions of people responded to the Facebook post this summer. Hundreds of law enforcement officers and medics will be on hand, along with the Nevada National Guard; the FAA closed nearby airspace this week. Officials expect cellular service to be overwhelmed. "We really didn't ask for this," says Varlin Higbee, a Lincoln County commissioner. Although warnings have been made to stay away, it doesn't look like that's totally working. "People desire to be part of something," a University of Nevada sociologist says. "When you tell people they can't do something, they just want to do it more."
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