Burning Man floods Update

Due to two days of heavy rain, approximately 70,000 Burning Man attendees faced difficulties leaving the muddy campgrounds at Black Rock City. On Sunday, the CEO of Burning Man reassured that the situation in Nevada in the Black Rock Desert was well-managed and not cause for alarm.

The National Weather Service stated there is a potential for flash flooding caused by excessive rainfall in various regions of Nevada, including eastern, north-central, northeast, northwest, and south-central areas, as per their recent update.

Each year, the gathering in the Black Rock Desert, located approximately 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Reno, attracts nearly 80,000 participants, including artists, musicians, and activists, who come together for a unique blend of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances. The event has experienced disruptions in recent years, including temporary entrance closures in 2018 due to dust storms and two complete cancellations during the pandemic.

This year, the festival faced disruption as over half an inch (1.3 centimeters) of rain fell at the festival site on Friday.

Amid the return of rain on Sunday and a series of challenges, an estimated 70,000-plus attendees of Burning Man found themselves stuck at the Black Rock City venue. The day was dangerous, causing road closure, muddy campgrounds, and one reported death.

The road closures occurred just before the scheduled burning of a large wooden effigy on Saturday night. Organizers announced the postponement of all burning activities while authorities were actively working to establish exit routes by the conclusion of the Labor Day weekend.

Late on Saturday, officials indicated uncertainty regarding when the roads would become dry enough for RVs or vehicles to navigate safely. Still, they expressed optimism that vehicles could leave by late Monday if weather conditions improved.

President Joe Biden, speaking from Delaware on Sunday, acknowledged his awareness of the situation at Burning Man, including the reported death. He noted that the White House communicated with local authorities but mentioned not having information about the cause of death.

With motorized traffic closed off, festival attendees had to traverse muddy terrain, with many opting to go barefoot or using plastic bags to protect their feet. Festival-goers were advised to conserve their food and water supplies, and the majority remained at the site, awaiting further developments.

A few individuals, however, managed to trek several miles to the nearest town or hitch a ride there.

Alexandri expressed concerns: “Our primary concern is if the port-a-potties become overwhelmed, we could face a significant public health crisis, which is our first major risk.” He mentioned a second risk, the possibility of attendees lacking adequate warm clothing, leading to severe health consequences due to the cold weather. He emphasized that these conditions are extremely challenging and potentially devastating, even under the best circumstances.

Alexandri observed that the majority of attendees planned to stay at the festival only long enough to witness the burning of the wooden man, which was scheduled for yesterday, and most likely did not bring provisions and medications for extended stays.

Within the camp, there’s a somewhat resigned attitude akin to “a band playing on the deck of the Titanic,” according to Alexandri.

She expressed concern that people sometimes derive a sense of satisfaction from Burning Man’s misfortunes, saying, “People often exhibit schadenfreude towards Burning Man, saying, ‘Well, they brought this upon themselves,’ but I don’t believe that’s an appropriate attitude here. We’re dealing with 65,000 people in a situation that could rapidly escalate into an extraordinary disaster.”

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that no unusual diseases were detected at Burning Man, even after conspiracy theories circulated online. A spokesperson for the department stated that they collaborated with Burning Man to supervise emergency medical services and environmental health, with some staff present on-site during adverse weather conditions.