Amidst ankle-deep mud, an extensive convoy of trucks, recreational vehicles, and other automobile types embark on their exodus from the Burning Man festival site. This comes after heavy rainfall created a quagmire in the pop-up city, leaving tens of thousands of festival-goers stranded.
The vehicle travel restriction was officially removed on Monday afternoon, and the event organizers noted that “exodus operations have officially begun in Black Rock City”, the temporary city built yearly for the festival. However, even before the formal lifting of the ban, the journey back home had begun for several attendees.
As twilight approached on Sunday, it was reported that 72,000 people populated the site, a number that had decreased to approximately 64,000 by noon on Monday. With the lifting of the driving restriction at 2 p.m., organizers informed the crowd that although conditions were improving and roads drying up, the area remained muddy and potentially challenging to navigate in places.
A word of caution was issued, urging people to proceed slowly and heed the instructions of those managing traffic. Patience was requested as attendees exited via Gate Road, with an appeal to accord respect to the Burning Man staff working tirelessly to ensure a smooth and safe departure.
Attendees were advised to contemplate delaying their departure until Tuesday to alleviate inevitable congestion. By Monday evening, departing the site was taking vehicles about seven hours, a timeframe well within the festival’s traditional peak hours of exit ranging between 6 to 9 hours.
Since Friday night, access roads to and from Black Rock City were closed, and the attendees were ordered to stay put the following day. In the wake of the heavy rains rendering vehicle movement virtually impossible, festival-goers were instructed to ration their food, water, and fuel.
The secluded northwestern Nevada area experienced two to three months’ worth of rainfall measuring up to 0.8 inches within 24 hours spanning Friday and Saturday morning. However, by Monday, the sunny and dry weather conditions held promise for significant improvement. The festival’s highlight, the Burning Man’s immolation, was rescheduled from Sunday to Monday night due to the unfavorable weather.
Attendees, normally prepared for the extreme desert heat, found themselves contending with a muddy quagmire and dwindling supplies. While some embraced the adversity as an opportunity for communal bonding, others were anxious about their ability to leave on time to catch flights and resume their routine lives.
A sense of camaraderie emerged within the community, with attendees offering food and shelter to those in need. Kaz Qamruddin, an attendee, spoke about the strong sense of community and mutual cooperation that prevailed during this challenging period.
However, not everyone chose to stay put as recommended by the organizing team during the weekend. Some tried to leave the muddy grounds creating heavier traffic for others. Despite these difficulties, several attendees including artists like Diplo and Chris Rock managed to exit the festival ground, some even hiking for miles through the thick mud.
A tragic note to the event was an unrelated death at the festival on Friday. The organizers reported that they promptly responded to an emergency call for a male attendee, approximately 40 years old but were unable to resuscitate him. The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the death.