In the wake of a weekend of relentless rainfall, thousands of Burning Man participants have begun their final departure from the sodden, muddy haven of creative expression. Heavy showers inundated the encampments, transforming the arid ocean of the Nevada desert city into patches of thick mire, trapping over 70,000 enthusiasts.
It was only on Monday afternoon that event entrepreneurs formally lifted the vehicular prohibition instituted during the tempestuous Friday downpour. As a sigh of relief echoed across Black Rock City, the temporary metropolis built annually for the festival, participants could now safely embark on their homeward journey.
The landscape was still burdened by swathes of mud, with certain zones posing challenging terrain, the organisers explain. Despite improvements, the average egress time loomed around seven hours on Monday night. Yet, this was not uncommon—Burning Man’s chronicles note similar exit durations during prime travel hours of preceding events.
By the break of dawn Tuesday, circumstances were looking brighter.
Delegates could anticipate an approximate two to three-hour wait period before leaving Black Rock City, festival directors disclosed through X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. A plea for commemorative rest prior to commencing the highway journey and an alert for roadway debris at high speeds were also issued, embodying the core festival mantra, ‘Travel Safe.’
The unforeseen stranding on desert terrain amid missed flights and other obligations ushered in an atmosphere of uncertainty and stress for several participants. However, others found that the adversity nurtured stronger bonds within the camp communities. Resource sharing, food distribution and providing a haven for those in need became common sights.
In the words of Kaz Qamruddin, a participant of the event, “As soon as the tents started becoming unbearable due to saturation, people in RVs started adopting the tenters, ensuring everyone was warm.” Highlighting the resilience of the community, he added, “We are a community that comes together in hard times. It’s all about coming together and working as a team.”
Among the early evacuees were several notable personalities like the Music DJ Diplo, Chris Rock, Cindy Crawford, Kaia Gerber, and Austin Butler, who endeavored on foot through the muddy expanse. Hitched on the back of a fan’s truck, they managed to reach the paved roadway.
As per the organizers, of the 72,000 individuals still present at the site on Sunday night, nearly 64,000 people remained by midday Monday. Looking towards the spectacle of the event — the Burning of the Man — many heeded the pleas of the officials and decided to stay. The awe-inspiring ceremony of setting ablaze the massive wooden effigy, symbolizing the event’s namesake, took place a day later than planned.
The first rain onslaught had prompted a temporary pause on driving inside the city, with urgent calls to conserve water and food, and shelter in place. With an initial rainfall of 0.8 inches soaking the remote northwest Nevada enclave, and more rain following, the National Weather Service in Reno documented it as a particularly wet commencement to the month.
Significantly, the desert ground of Black Rock City, primarily composed of clay, struggles to rapidly absorb water, unlike more fertile soil. This results in a concrete-like muddy mixture trapping vehicles, as explained by CNN Weather Anchor Derek Van Dam. The continual exit delays complicated the situation further.
Throughout the weekend, festival organizers diligently dispatched updates, emphasizing the importance of road clearance and staying put. Eventually, at 2 p.m. Monday, the driving ban was lifted, marking the end of an unforgettable chapter in the Burning Man chronicles.