Burning Man Festival update: Participants are leaving festival

Organizers of the Burning Man festival in northwest Nevada said on Monday that they anticipated people to start leaving by lunchtime as the ground dried out after severe rains left tens of thousands of people stranded for days in a sea of slop and mud.

The primary access road into and out of the old lake bed where the yearly festival of art and music is hosted was still too muddy and wet for vehicles to pass on Monday morning, according to a statement on the Burning Man website, but organizers expressed hope that it would be usable by noon Pacific time.

This year, organizers pleaded with participants to think about delaying their departure until Tuesday to prevent a major traffic gridlock in the isolated desert.

Burning man festival
Burning man festival via Reuters

But some people didn’t wait. Before any formal statement was made on Monday morning, a convoy of trucks and jeeps was already attempting to leave and leaving a trail of muck in its wake.

The burning of a massive wooden effigy in the form of a man that has been twice postponed may now be possible on Monday night thanks to the improved weather prediction.

Severe Weather at Burning Man Festival

The delays, according to officials on a social media account associated with the festival, were also brought on by muddy weather and the impossibility of transporting large pieces of fire safety equipment to the burning location. Originally set for Saturday night, the fire was later moved to Sunday and then again on Monday night.

The Burning Man festival takes place at Black Rock City, a transient settlement that appears yearly amid Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. There have been developed alternate routes that might be accessible on Monday.

On Saturday, when participants were advised to remain put and preserve food and water, the atmosphere around Black Rock City had become tense and considerably more somber by Sunday night. In the dry interval on Sunday afternoon, several of the dance and bar buildings were removed. By the evening, participants, or “burners,” were wandering about the still-soggy site, many wearing plastic bags over their shoes to protect them from the oatmeal-thick muck.

The improvised community accommodates more than 70,000 visitors annually and is an hour’s drive from the closest airport in Reno, which is located more than 100 miles away. The event this year kicked off on August 27.

Although they claimed it did not seem to be related to the weather, the authorities were also looking into one participant’s death.

Rain had been pouring heavily on the event grounds since Friday, making it hazardous and muddy for attendees to depart. Over the weekend, flash flooding and swiftly moving thunderstorms also devastated other areas of Nevada. On the Las Vegas Strip, there were reportedly reports of severe flooding.

Social media has been flooded with reports of attempts to leave the website, including a video released by the music producer Diplo. On Saturday, he claimed that he and comedian Chris Rock had trekked five kilometers through the muck before being rescued by onlookers. The man and others may be seen on the footage sandwiched in a pickup truck’s bed.

Government Response Over Burning Man Festival

On Sunday afternoon, a spokesperson from the White House confirmed that President Biden had been briefed on the situation and that representatives from the administration had reached out to state and local authorities for assistance.

Reno’s mayor, Hillary Schieve, also took to social media on Sunday to inform the public that the city was working in coordination with regional partners to prepare for the departure of a large number of Burning Man attendees. She suggested that visitors might consider using some of the parking areas at the conference center.

Interestingly, despite the festival’s reputation for embracing grit and independence, many attendees appeared to be handling the chaotic situation with a remarkable level of calm and composure.

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They burned an 8-foot effigy called the “Burning Man” as a small ritual.

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