Nevada goes on heightened alert
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Hoover Dam was closed, trucks temporarily blocked entrances to the state capitol, military bases went on highest alert status around Nevada and airports in Las Vegas and Reno shut down to incoming flights after terrorist attacks rocked New York and Washington on Tuesday.
Security was increased along the Las Vegas Strip and the 1,149-foot Stratosphere hotel-casino was closed.
Security guards were checking luggage and loading dock deliveries on the Strip, but gambling continued at casinos around the city after hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
“This was an unprovoked act of war against this country,” said U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who spoke with The Associated Press by telephone from her home two blocks from the Capitol in Washington, D.C. “Obviously, this was a very sophisticated and well-planned attack.”
All four members of Nevada’s congressional delegation were reported to be safe.
“Our first concern now is for the catastrophic loss of life,” Berkley said. “We’re going to have to determine how we are going to address this attack. We cannot equivocate.”
Hoover Dam was closed at both sides of the dam, closing a main thoroughfare between Phoenix and Las Vegas, according to Gov. Kenny Guinn.
Guinn said state emergency staffers and all military bases are on full alert status.
“It’s a devastating day for us in America,” he said. “It will affect every single family and family member in America.”
Nellis Air Force Base increased security to its highest level, said 2nd Lt. Carla Pampe, spokeswoman for the base near Las Vegas.
Pampe said that only military personnel and civilian employees were being allowed on the base. She said she could not further describe security measures, but added that an elementary school on the base remained open.
Heightened security greeted people arriving Tuesday at the Naval Air Station in Fallon in northern Nevada.
“We’re taking precautions, absolutely. We’re still open,” NAS Fallon spokeswoman Anne McMillin said. “We’re taking it slowly and very carefully.”
“Everyone here, because of what we do, knows people back at the Pentagon, works with people back at the Pentagon, so there is deep concern for several co-workers and colleagues on the East Coast, whether at the Pentagon or anywhere else.”
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded aircraft nationwide, stranding passengers.
Reno Tahoe International Airport was closing operations, according to spokesman Adam Mayberry, and access roads were being closed.
“The reason why the airport terminal is closed is that no aircraft are flying and there simply is no reason for the public to be here.”
Airlines are sending home personnel.
“The airport’s effectively closed indefinitely.”
At McCarran in Las Vegas, passengers departed from arriving aircraft but security checkpoints were closed, blocking access to the gates.
A mall of stores beyond airport security checkpoints was closed and rental cars sold out at the airport. Bus service to Nellis Air Force Base was stopped.
Las Vegas police Sgt. Christopher Darcy said patrol officers were kept from the overnight shift into the day shift to provide manpower on the streets.
“Everybody’s going to be on duty until we can be sure everything is OK here,” Darcy said.
In Carson City, several access points around the Capitol building were blocked for about two hours by state trucks for about two hours. Most are openings in the iron fence used for foot traffic but wide enough for a vehicle to get through.
Alan Feldman, spokesman for the MGM-Mirage Resorts, which owns six casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, said hotel security guards were checking loading dock deliveries and inspecting convention group luggage at hotel check-in.
The 113-story Stratosphere tower above the Las Vegas Strip was closed today. Michael Gilmartin, spokesman for the hotel-casino, said gambling in the casino remained unaffected. The tower has a restaurant, lounge, meeting area and the High Roller roller coaster.
Fire officials in surrounding Clark County activated an emergency operations center, and Darcy said Las Vegas police were coordinating security efforts with the FBI and federal officials in Las Vegas.
Natalie Collins, U.S. District Court spokeswoman in Las Vegas, said police and federal security officers were added at the building -checking vehicles entering the garage and screening pedestrians at a security checkpoint in the lobby.
The National Championship Air Race grounded Wednesday’s qualifying runs. Qualifying began Monday and was to conclude on Wednesday.
Security has been tightened at the Nevada Air National Guard installation next to the airport.
The routine Reno City Council meeting and a joint meeting with the Washoe County Commission have been canceled. All other city offices, schools are open.
Police and fire officials have been in contact with other area agencies to be prepared for any emergencies.
The Energy Department postponed for at least two weeks two public hearings on the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, said Gayle Fisher, DOE spokeswoman.
The meetings had been scheduled Wednesday in Amargosa Valley and Thursday in Pahrump, Nev.
New dates will be announced soon, she said.
Associated Press reporters Tom Gardner, Brendan Riley and Lisa Snedeker contributed to this report.