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1 death reported after storms leave thousands stranded at Burning Man Festival : NPR


Attendees known as “burners” strike down their camp before new rainfalls in a muddy desert plain on Sunday after heavy rains turned the annual Burning Man festival site in Nevada’s Black Rock desert into a mud pit.

Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images


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Attendees known as “burners” strike down their camp before new rainfalls in a muddy desert plain on Sunday after heavy rains turned the annual Burning Man festival site in Nevada’s Black Rock desert into a mud pit.

Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images

Tens of thousands of attendees are stranded at the Burning Man music and arts festival after storms turned Nevada’s Black Rock Desert playa into a mud bath.

Close to an inch of precipitation flooded the area starting on Friday, prompting event organizers to close access to the festival until vehicles could safely pass and to warn campers to conserve food and water.

Despite reports of stuck vehicles, overflowing port-a-potties, postponed bus pickups and spotty Wi-Fi service, several attendees who spoke to NPR say the wet weather hasn’t dampened moods.

“We’re pooling all our food as far as resources. And I would say honestly, walking around the city, spirits are pretty high,” attendee Anya Kamenetz said on Sunday.

The challenging conditions are testing a community of so-called burners, which touts self-reliance and communal effort among its core principles.

Event volunteer Josh Lease said that in true Burning Man spirit, people are sharing warm clothes and phone chargers where they can — and music is blaring.

“It’s like any other Burning Man, just muddy,” he told NPR on Saturday evening.

Camps are set on a muddy desert plain on Saturday after heavy rains turned the annual Burning Man festival site in Nevada’s Black Rock desert into a mud pit.

Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images


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Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images


Camps are set on a muddy desert plain on Saturday after heavy rains turned the annual Burning Man festival site in Nevada’s Black Rock desert into a mud pit.

Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images

“The warnings do sound very dire, and of course, the organization has to tell people to take care,” said Claudia Peschiutta, an editor with NPR’s Morning Edition who attended the event, but “I haven’t seen one person who seems worried about it at all.”

Some frustration, however, started to seep in for some attendees by Sunday.

In rainy Burning Mans past, longtime burner Joe Bamberg said he’s seen couches, carpets and clothes eventually dry out. But this time, he said, “all is damp and will be ruined by mold,” he said.

“I am not thrilled,” said Bamberg, who added: “People make do, it is part of the adventure.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Nevada are investigating a death at the site. The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said on Saturday that a person died during the event but offered few details, including whether the death was weather-related, KNSD-TV reported.

The muck is expected to dry up starting Monday, which is forecast to see clear skies, promising long waits in traffic during the exodus on the final day of the annual event. But event organizers have yet to give an estimate of when gates will open to cars.

Attendees are urged to shelter in place

The Burning Man Organization began telling attendees to shelter in place on Saturday, when it announced that access into and out of the site was closed for the remainder of the event, which runs from Aug. 27 through Sep. 4. Only emergency vehicles are allowed to pass, the organization said in a statement.

“Conserve food, water, and fuel, and shelter in a warm, safe space,” the statement urged those stuck in the desert.

As of Sunday night, festival organizers had still not opened the exit due to muddy roads.

Although they are currently urging attendees against driving, event officials said that some vehicles designed for off-road terrain have been able to navigate the mud and successfully leave the event.

Other attendees have chosen to walk several miles across the muck to exit the grounds.

The Burning Man Organization advised people not to make the foot journey at night.

Burning Man attendee Josh Lease climbed on top of his camp’s trailer to take a photo of the rainbow that emerged after heavy rains brought muddy grounds at the Black Rock City playa on Saturday.

Josh Lease


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Josh Lease


Burning Man attendee Josh Lease climbed on top of his camp’s trailer to take a photo of the rainbow that emerged after heavy rains brought muddy grounds at the Black Rock City playa on Saturday.

Josh Lease

“Make sure you have water and the strength to walk as much as 5 miles through the mud,” the nonprofit said. “This isn’t a simple solution, but it is a possible one should you need or want to make the trek.”

Music producer Diplo said he and comedian Chris Rock escaped the event on Saturday after walking 6 miles before hitching a ride from a fan in a pickup truck.

“I legit walked the side of the road for hours with my thumb out cuz I have a show in dc tonight and didnt want to let yall down,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

Neal Katyal, former acting Obama-era solicitor general, also made the trek out. He said he is safe after his first trip to the festival ended with “an incredibly harrowing 6 mile hike at midnight through heavy and slippery mud.”

President Biden has been briefed on the situation, according to a White House official, and the administration is monitoring the event. Event attendees should listen to state and local officials, and event organizers, the administration official said.

Attendees walk through a muddy desert plain on Saturday, after heavy rains turned the annual Burning Man festival site in Nevada’s Black Rock desert into a mud pit.

Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images


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Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images


Attendees walk through a muddy desert plain on Saturday, after heavy rains turned the annual Burning Man festival site in Nevada’s Black Rock desert into a mud pit.

Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images

The conditions put Burning Man community spirit to the test

“We have come here knowing this is a place where we bring everything we need to survive,” the organization said in a statement on Saturday night. “It is because of this that we are all well-prepared for a weather event like this.”

“We have done table-top drills for events like this. We are engaged full-time on all aspects of safety and looking ahead to our Exodus as our next priority.”

Organizers said they would send mobile cell trailers and open up the internet to multiple areas throughout the desert playa, as well as try to help transport buses out of the area. “Get some rest and spend some quality time with your campmates,” the festival said in the Saturday night statement. “We will all get out of this, it will just take time.”

Attendee Bobby White, who hosts the TV series Sailing Doodles, squelched through the mud against a backdrop of gunmetal skies and soggy tents in a YouTube video posted Saturday.

“Every time you step, you pick up more mud and it’s just really hard to move,” White said.

With the gates closed, service vehicles on Saturday weren’t able to reach the port-a-potties in a timely manner to empty the waste, causing toilets to overflow, attendee Kris Edwards said in a video posted to TikTok. Video posted to social media on Sunday afternoon showed people cheering upon the arrival of a sanitation service vehicle.

The aftermath of the downpour is seen near campsites at Black Rock City.

Josh Lease


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Josh Lease


The aftermath of the downpour is seen near campsites at Black Rock City.

Josh Lease

The weather has forced the postponement of some art installation burns, including the burning of the namesake wooden-man effigy, a ritual that traditionally happens on Saturday night. It will now happen on Monday night, organizers said.

The Washoe County sheriff’s office said it’s working with the Bureau of Land Management, a federal body that patrols and permits the event, and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office to stay updated on the situation and offer support as needed.

This isn’t the first time the entrance was blocked at this year’s festival.

A group of climate protesters caused miles of gridlock after parking a 28-foot trailer in the way at the start of the event.





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