Burning Man Exodus Commences as Muddy Conditions Improve

Estimated read time 3 min read

Organizers have given the green light for a significant number of revelers to depart from the Burning Man festival in the United States as the damp conditions have started to ease.

They have announced that people can commence their departures at noon local time (19:00 BST) but have suggested delaying until Tuesday to prevent excessive congestion. The heavy rain had transformed the event, held in the Nevada desert, into a muddy terrain, stranding approximately 72,000 attendees.

Additionally, the organizers clarified that the unfortunate death of a man on Friday was unrelated to the adverse weather. Emergency services responded to assist the approximately 40-year-old man, but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. The local sheriff’s office had previously indicated an ongoing investigation.

In a Monday morning update, festival organizers also postponed the traditional finale of the event—the burning of an effigy—to Monday evening. They recommended, “Consider delaying your departure… until Tuesday,” to alleviate congestion concerns throughout the day.

The rainstorm that struck the Black Rock Desert toward the end of the previous week is believed to be the most prolonged and intense rainfall the festival has experienced in over 30 years.

Martyna Sowa, a dancer scheduled to perform at the event, expressed surprise at how severe the conditions had become. She recounted, “It was a truly unusual experience.”

Festivalgoers, expected to be largely self-sufficient as per the festival’s ethos, were advised to seek shelter and conserve their supplies of food, fuel, and water. However, the inclement weather temporarily rendered portable toilet facilities unusable, as service vehicles couldn’t navigate the muddy terrain for maintenance.

“We were initially informed that we couldn’t leave until Tuesday, but those with urgent needs have been allowed to depart,” explained Ms. Sowa.

While many chose to remain on-site, some embarked on a 5-mile (8 km) trek through the mud to reach the nearest road. Festival organizers arranged for buses to transport individuals from the road to the nearby city of Reno, although some people reported having to pay for rides or hitchhike out of the area.

Organizers emphasized that a ride was not guaranteed and urged individuals not to attempt walking to County Road 34.

Other festivalgoers embraced the boggy conditions, dancing in the mud and hosting impromptu karaoke sessions. “I’m having a blast,” shared Jazz Korona with the BBC.

However, by Sunday, the initial excitement had given way to growing frustration, with many eager to depart. Faye, a Burning Man participant from London, revealed she had been “covered in mud for the past three days” and lamented the lack of showers, resorting to using baby wipes inside her tent.

The unusual rainstorms arrived toward the conclusion of the nine-day festival, typically when the largest crowds gather to witness the grand finale—the burning of the massive wooden effigy. Originally scheduled for Sunday, this event has been postponed by a day. Several other festival events, including Ms. Sowa’s performance, were forced to be canceled.

Even before the official commencement of Burning Man on August 27, it faced the remnants of Hurricane Hilary, leading organizers to close the gates to early arrivals. Burning Man stands as one of America’s most renowned arts and culture events, where visitors create a temporary city in the midst of the desert. Founded in June 1986, it found its permanent home in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in 1990. Obtaining tickets can be a challenging endeavor, and prospective festivalgoers often undergo interviews and demonstrate their commitment to its ideals to gain entry into popular camps.

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