Thousands of Burning Man festival attendees faced a challenging journey home from the Nevada desert due to heavy rain causing muddy conditions over the weekend. Here’s what happened.
A Very Wet Burning Man
On September 4th, an announcement allowed festivalgoers to leave Burning Man, but it took vehicles six hours or more to navigate the muddy roads, leading to long backups.
The Black Rock Desert in Nevada experienced an unusual two months’ worth of rainfall in just two days, starting on September 1st. This left over 70,000 festival attendees stranded, trying to leave Black Rock City, the temporary community created for the festival.
Hosts on Burning Man Information Radio advised festivalgoers not to move in the early hours of September 4th to avoid getting stuck.
One Man Died
Unfortunately, there was one reported casualty. On September 4th, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the death of Leon Reece, aged 32, at the festival. The cause and manner of his death were still undetermined at that time.
Marian Goodell, the CEO of Burning Man, reassured everyone that the situation was under control and there was no need to panic.
President Biden was informed of the situation, and government officials closely monitored the developments.
The Festival Attracts Dreamers, Artists, Tech Founders, and Celebrities
Burning Man is an annual event where participants gather for nine days to create a temporary community centered around self-expression and self-reliance. It has been held in Nevada since 1991, attracting dreamers, artists, tech founders, celebrities, and more.
This year’s Burning Man started on August 28th and was scheduled to run until September 5th, with tickets priced starting at $575 per person. However, heavy rainfall turned the desert into a muddy quagmire, making it impossible for vehicles to navigate. The event organizers closed the gate and airport to incoming and outgoing traffic, advising attendees to conserve supplies and find shelter.
It Was an Exodus!
Conditions improved gradually, with roads in Black Rock City expected to open for Exodus on September 4th. The Burning Man community rallied together to support one another during the challenging circumstances.
Comedian Chris Rock, DJ Diplo, and other celebrities had to venture through the mud to leave the event. They eventually hitched a ride with a fan to return to Reno, 100 miles away.
The pair had journeyed six miles through the desert on September 2nd to escape the difficult conditions and mud, which some had likened to quicksand.
“It Felt Like We Had a Little Victory, a Little Battle That Day, and It Felt Nice”
“My camp had some celebrities nearby, so we ventured out with Josh Kushner, Karlie Kloss, Cindy Crawford, Chris Rock, and some writers, and we just decided to all go together,”
Diplo had told NBC News correspondent Liz Kreutz on TODAY on September 5th.
“It felt like we had a little victory, a little battle that day, and it felt nice.”
In an Instagram post, Diplo shared a video of their trek through the mud, citing that he and Rock had hitched a ride out of Black Rock City with a fan to return to Reno, 100 miles away.
We “Walked the Side of the Road for Hours”
“A fan offered Chris Rock and me a ride out of Burning Man in the back of a pick-up,” Diplo had written in a text overlay of the video.
According to Diplo, he and Rock had “walked the side of the road for hours” because Diplo didn’t want to miss a show he was performing at in Washington, D.C.
“The Killing” actor Joel Kinnaman and fiancée Kelly Gale were also at the event.
“Praying for Everyone To Stay Safe and Get Out Safe”
On September 3rd, Gale posted a photo of her, Kinnaman, and others in the mud, writing, “Right before our camp/friends split up. Half of us stayed, and half of us left. Felt so difficult leaving, but the good thing was making sure there would be enough food and water for those who stayed. Praying for everyone to stay safe and get out safe.”
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