On Saturday evening, the Bureau of Land Management and one of the local sheriff’s offices closed the entrance to Burning Man for the rest of the event, and the state’s Department of Transportation closed nearby travel roads due to flooding.
Representatives for the Burning Man Project haven’t said when they expect event access to be reopened, but according to weather forecasts, the rain is expected to clear Sunday evening.
Organizers temporarily closed Burning Man’s gates a few days before the event’s official start date of Aug. 27 to allow the playa to dry from Hurricane Hilary’s rains. The event began on time, but heavy rain disrupted Friday’s scheduled art burns and will probably affect the well-known burning of the Man statue Saturday night and another scheduled burn on Sunday before the event is set to end on Monday.
Despite the shelter-in-place order, some attendees, such as Chris Rock and Diplo, have attempted to escape.
“Just walked 5 miles in the mud out of burning man with chris rock and a fan picked us up,” Diplo tweeted, along with a video of him lifting his goggles to reveal shimmery gold face paint.
Each year since 1986, tens of thousands of Burning Man participants, called Burners, gather in Black Rock City, a temporary desert city that is built and torn down on a dry lake bed that was once Lake Lahontan in northern Nevada. Burners are expected to be self-sustaining, which means they must supply their own food, water and shelter for the event.
At the event, Burners walk or bike around the grounds, visiting camps with art pieces and DJ sets while practicing the 10 Burning Man principles, including decommodification — emphasizing gifting over transactional interactions — radical self-reliance to provide needed resources, communal effort and leaving no trace on the environment. Black Rock City also has limited WiFi and phone service, causing spotty communication for eventgoers.
Kalli Martin, a 29-year-old engineer in San Francisco, said she had been enjoying the event, before the rain made the area “crazy muddy.” Some people have had to walk the campgrounds barefoot and wash their feet with buckets of water after their shoes fell apart, she said.
“We have shade structures above our tents that are tarps supported by poles, but they started filling with water, and were at risk of collapsing on our tents,” Martin, a first-time attendee, said. “We had to figure out how to pump water out of them with a hose and push the water out with broom handles from underneath.”
Eventgoers are trying to make the best of their situation “doing disaster preparation in their party clothes,” Martin said. At times, people in her camp, Bao Chicka Wow Wow, have sung karaoke, played cards and cooked while they wait for the weather to improve. Martin said her camp mates predict they might be stuck until Monday or Tuesday.
Rohan Thadani, a 32-year-old Brooklyn entrepreneur who’s been part of the Burning Man community for 12 years, said that spirits were high at his camp, Burners Without Borders.
“Roughly 70,000 people are in several inches of sticky, slippery mud, embracing the reality that Burning Man is both over and will continue well into next week,” he said. “Conditions are absolutely crazy here but there is not a better group of people apt to deal with this.”
Burning Man rangers are on the grounds trying to help in Black Rock City, but their capabilities have mostly been limited to stopping people who have tried to drive out and helping people who have gotten stuck in the roads, Martin said.
Organizers have also communicated with Burners through on-site announcements, a Google spreadsheet, the Burning Man radio station and on social media.
“Check on your camp mates and neighbors to make sure they’re okay and help them as needed,” Burning Man organizers said in an announcement. “And take advantage of a moment of calm to connect with camp mates and hunker down. Stay safe out there, Black Rock City!”
POST AUTHOR: Samantha Chery