Residents near to Nevada’s Area 51 are “preparing for the worst” as fans of the viral Storm Area 51 event descend on the secretive military base. Locals have warned the viral Facebook event could become a disaster as people struggle with the difficult conditions in Nevada without proper preparation. Those arriving to the tiny towns of Rachel and Hiko, near Area 51, are doing so because of a Facebook event that was one of the site’s most popular ever, before it was shut down. The page, which encouraged people to “see them aliens” and suggested that if enough people raid the base then they couldn’t be stopped, is bringing an unknown number of people to Nevada to take part in the event.
Area 51 is the popular name for a United States Air Force base at Groom Lake in the Nevada Desert, 85 miles (135km) north of Las Vegas.
What goes on inside is extremely secret, with the public kept away by warning signs and armed guards.
The secrecy surrounding Area 51 has helped fuel many conspiracy theories.
Most famous is the claim the site hosts an alien spacecraft and the bodies of its pilots, after they crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.
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The military base boasts runways stretching up to 12,000ft (2.3 miles) long.
Area 51 sits next to two other restricted military areas: the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear weapons were once tested, and the Nevada Test and Training Range.
The entire range of Area 51 covers more than 2.9 million acres of land.
Area 51 has been officially described by the US military “a flexible, realistic and multidimensional battle-space to conduct testing tactics development, and advanced training”.
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Why was Area 51 built?
Area 51 was built during the Cold War for testing and developing for aircraft, including the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance planes.
Although it opened in 1955, Area 51’s existence was only officially acknowledged by the CIA in August 2013.
President Obama became the first US president to mention Area 51 publicly, four months after the CIA’s admission.
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What takes place in Area 51 today?
Although official information is scarce, the US military most likely continues to use Area 51 to develop cutting-edge war machines.
Approximately 1,500 people are thought to work at Area 51, with many commuting from Las Vegas.
Area 51 expert Annie Jacobsen, told the BBC some of the world’s most advanced espionage programmes are at the site.
She said: “Area 51 is a test and training facility.
“The research began with the U-2 spy plane in the 1950s and has now moved on to drones.”
What would happen if people “storm” Area 51?
Matty Roberts, 20, created a Facebook event proposing that “we can run faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens”.
Two million people subsequently said they were “going”, although a linked festival has since been moved because of fears over a “possible humanitarian disaster”.
Warning signs surrounding Area 51 clearly state trespassers will be tolerated.
The US Air Force warn how Area 51 “is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces”.
The Air Force added: “The US Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”