LAS VEGAS — At first, the co-owner of the quirky alien-themed motel down a Nevada highway from the mysterious Area 51 site didn’t take a posting for a prank Facebook event too seriously.
Then, her phone started ringing.
“It doesn’t stop, our phone won’t stop ringing,” Connie West, of the Little A’le’Inn, told the Las Vegas Sun.
The 10-room motel is one of few businesses in Rachel, a town of 54 residents now gaining celebrity status among aviation and UFO enthusiasts attracted by the posting about a Sept. 20 event dubbed “storm Area 51.”
The U.S. Air Force has issued a warning to those hoping to "storm Area 51."
More than 1 million people have responded to the internet post calling for people to “Naruto run” at 3 a.m. into the remote U.S. Air Force test area in the Nevada desert that has long been the focus of UFO conspiracy theories.
The face-forward, arms-back running style is favored by characters in the anime series “Naruto.”
"They can't stop all of us," the post jokes. "Lets see them aliens."
The military is warning people not to try to enter the once top-secret Cold War site, which is posted and patrolled as part of the vast Nevada Test and Training Range.
After refusing for decades to acknowledge Area 51 even existed, the CIA declassified documents in 2013 referring to the 8,000-square mile (20,700-sq. kilometer) installation by name and locating it on a map near the dry Groom Lake bed.
Encounters with unidentified aircraft by pilots have once again prompted officials from the Department of Defense to take action.
The base has been a testing ground for top-secret aircraft including the U-2 spy plane in the 1950s and later the B-2 stealth bomber.
“Any attempt to illegally access the area is highly discouraged,” the Air Force said in a statement released by Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.
West is apprehensive about what might happen if big crowds arrive.
“It’s a little scary to think that many people could descend on a town of 54,” she said. “How can you prepare?”
Down the state Highway 375, dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway, Linda Looney, at the Alien Research Center gift shop and campsite, told the Sun she also was concerned about the effect of the Facebook post.
“I don’t think it’s just a passing fancy,” she said.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said he doesn’t expect many people to actually show up, and county spokesman Ben Rowley tallied 184 hotel rooms in the county.
But Lee said 500 or 1,000 sudden visitors could create traffic, parking and congestion issues in a jurisdiction with 26 sworn sheriff’s deputies and about 5,200 permanent residents mostly in rural towns including Caliente, Pioche, Panaca and Alamo.
“I think this started out as a joke but there may be enough people taking it seriously and it could be a problem,” the sheriff said. “Someone is going to get hurt and people may go to jail. It’s not anything to joke about.”