Burning Man Attendees Stranded by Muddy Roads Finally Exit Festival Site

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Tens of thousands of attendees, trapped for days at the counterculture festival in the northern Nevada desert, found their way out on Monday afternoon as muddy roads began to clear. The festival, Burning Man, although still urging partygoers to delay their departure until Tuesday to ease traffic, had started to allow vehicles to exit from the main road around 2 p.m.

The festival’s organizers also pleaded with attendees to refrain from leaving on foot via the Black Rock Desert, situated approximately 110 miles north of Reno – a method adopted over the weekend by comedian Chris Rock and star DJ Diplo, among others. The specific reasons for this were not stated.

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The festival was forced to close temporarily to vehicles following a rainfall of over half an inch on Friday, which occurred just before ‘the Man’, the festival’s symbolic wooden effigy, was scheduled to be set alight Saturday night. This traditional ceremony, the centrepiece of the last two evenings along with the burning of a wooden temple, however, was delayed until Monday night due to the closure of exit routes, necessitated by the unexpected rainfall.

Weather forecasts from the local meteorologist in Reno, Mark Deutschendorf, suggested primarily clear and dry conditions at the festival on Monday, although the likelihood of light showers on Tuesday morning could not be discounted. Despite the unexpectedly muddy circumstances, partygoers like photographer Scott London remained in good spirits, viewing the unusual travel restrictions as a fresh way to experience the festival.

Burning Man has drawn nearly 80,000 of artists, musicians, and activists annually since its inception on a San Francisco beach in 1986, providing a blend of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances. Yet disruptions have been a recurring theme in recent years, with dust storms prompting temporary closures in 2018 and the pandemic causing a total cancellation of the event twice.

The festival was not without casualty, with the death of a man in his 40s reported, although the cause was not believed to be weather-related. Investigations are ongoing by the sheriff of the nearby Pershing County. The incident was brought to the attention of President Joe Biden who stated that the White House is in communication with the local authorities.

Amid the chaos, festival-goers were encouraged to preserve their food and water supplies, with the large majority choosing to remain on the site. Despite this, a few attendees managed to either hitch a hike or walk to the nearest town. One such attendee was Thomas Wesley Pentz, popularly known as Diplo, seen on a fan’s pickup truck in an Instagram video after having traversed six miles through the muddy roads.

For others like Cindy Bishop and her friends, the festival concluded with a dawn’s escape in their rented RV, achieved through a momentarily unguarded main road, and following multiple instances of being stranded. Others, like photographer Rebecca Barger, decided to stay back and enjoy the remainder of the festival, embracing the spirit of camaraderie and resilience that was prevalent among the attendees.

Burning Man, starting from the 27th of August, was initially scheduled to end on Monday, with participants expected to clean up before they departed. However, heavy rains resulted in the festival taking an unexpectedly muddy turn.