Burning Man: 1 death reported as heavy rains leave festival-goers stranded in Nevada desert



CNN

Authorities say they are investigating the deaths at the event as thousands of people were unable to leave the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert after heavy rains left their campsites in ankle-deep mud on Saturday.

Participants were told to stay in the Black Rock Desert and conserve food, water and fuel.

A remote area in northwestern Nevada received 2 to 3 months’ worth of rain — up to 0.8 inches — in just 24 hours between Friday and Saturday morning. Festival organizers say heavy rains pounded the parched desert lands, churning up thick, clay-like mud that made it difficult to walk or cycle.

“More rain is expected over the next few days and conditions are not expected to improve enough to allow vehicles to enter the playa,” the Bureau of Land Management said in a statement. Reno Gazette Journal.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said it was investigating “a death that occurred during this rain event.” Authorities have not publicly named the man or provided details about the circumstances of his death.

“The family has been notified and the death remains under investigation,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release late Saturday.

Officials did not provide information on when the roads might reopen, but sunshine is expected to return on Monday after heavy rain on Sunday.

“We currently do not have an estimated time when the roads will be dry enough for RVs or vehicles to travel safely,” Burning Man organizers said in a statement Saturday evening. “Possible if weather favors us late on Monday. It will be over soon.”

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Rain overnight and Sunday on the already saturated playa will “affect the time it takes for the playa to dry,” organizers noted.

For now, Black Rock City’s entrance and airport are closed and no traffic is allowed in or out of the city, except for emergency vehicles. Organizers said On social media. Black Rock City is a temporary metropolis set up for the annual festival and comes complete with emergency, security and health infrastructure.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said the rain “made it almost impossible for motorized vehicles to pass the playa,” and people were advised to stay put until the ground dried out enough to drive safely.

Burning Man organizers said on Saturday that vehicles trying to get out would get stuck in the mud. “Cars stuck on the roads in our camping areas or on the gate road outside the city will prevent egress,” the organizers added.

“If you are at the BRC, please stay in place and be safe,” organizers said.

Dawn was a muddy mess at the Burning Man camp, where the exit gates were closed indefinitely as driving was almost impossible.

Some festival-goers walked miles through thick mud to reach the main roads, while others stayed in their camps hoping conditions would improve.

Hannah Burhorn, who attended the ceremony for the first time, told CNN that people walk through the mud barefoot or with bags tied to their feet.

“People have tried to bike through it and got stuck because it’s ankle deep,” Burhorn said. Because the mud is so thick, it “sticks to your shoes and makes it look like a boot around your shoe,” he added.

It’s unclear how many people are stranded at the festival, but more than 70,000 people typically attend the week-long event. This year it runs from August 28 to September 4.

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Pershing County Emergency Management Director Sean Burke told CNN there were no reports of injuries as of Saturday afternoon.

He told CNN that Amar Singh Thugkal and his friends walked about 2 miles through the mud to leave the festival. He estimated it would take them about 2 hours to get to a main road arranged to take them to Reno, about 120 miles from the event grounds.

Heavy rain covered the ground in thick mud at Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert.

“We made it, but it was pure hell (walking) through the mud,” Duggal said. “Every step felt like we had two huge cinderblocks on our feet.”

Meanwhile, participants who normally devote their time to art and community building are now focused on rationing goods and dealing with connectivity issues.

“There’s super limited bandwidth and a lot of people at the camp are trying to (cancel flights and arrange longer stays here),” Burhorn told CNN via text message from the Wi-Fi camp.

Still, the poor conditions didn’t stop creativity, said Burhorn, who traveled from San Francisco.

“People make clay sculptures,” he said.

Andrew Hyde, another participant stuck at Burning Man, said the weather took the meaning of the event back to its roots, even though the muddy conditions made walking difficult.

“You come here to be in severe weather, you prepare for it,” Hyde told CNN’s Paula Newton. “So in many ways, everyone here has made friends with their neighbors, and it’s a social phenomenon.”

Morale at the event is good and there is generally no panic among attendees, Hyde described the return of music overnight.

However, there are concerns about delays due to additional rain, however, the worst conditions are unknown.

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“I think it’s a concern if there’s another rain,” he said. “People need to get back to their jobs, get back to their responsibilities back home.”

A rainbow appears over Burning Man in Nevada's Black Rock Desert on September 2, 2023.

Organizers announced Saturday night that they would place mobile cell trailers at different locations, configure the company’s Wi-Fi system for public access, and send buses to nearby Gerlach to take people leaving Playa to Reno.

“This is not a 24-hour operation at this time,” the festival said in a statement on its website.

Organizers use four-wheelers and all-terrain tires to help transport medical and other emergency situations to Blacktop

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said there were people walking to a main road Saturday night and waiting for traffic from festival organizers.

The sheriff’s office said resources were brought in from around northern Nevada to help those with medical needs at the event grounds.

“Burning Man is a community of people willing to support each other,” Burning Man said on its website. “We came here knowing that this is the place that brings us everything we need to live. Because of this we are all well prepared for such a weather event.

“We have done table-top exercises for such events,” the organizers added. “We are fully engaged in all aspects of security and look forward to Exodus as our next priority.”

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