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Burning Man 2023: Flood strands thousands in Nevada; authorities investigate a death

An unusual late summer storm turned the festival Counterculture Burning Man in a mess in which tens of thousands of people ended up stranded by mud and without working toilets, in the Nevada desert; however, some of the attendees said this Sunday that they were still in good spirits.

Organizers closed off vehicles after one death was reported. Authorities have not released details about that death.

The annual week-long gathering in the Black Rock Desert, located about 177 kilometers north of Reno, draws nearly 80,000 artists, musicians and activists for a mix of wilderness camping and art performances. The interruptions are part of the recent history of the event: the organizers had to temporarily suspend tickets in 2018 due to sandstorms, and was completely canceled twice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are a bit dirty and muddy, but our spirits are up. The party’s on,” said Scott London, a Southern California photographer, adding that the travel restrictions offered “a perspective on Burning Man that many of us don’t get a chance to see.”


About 1.3 centimeters of rain and possibly as much as 2.5 centimeters fell this weekend in parts of northwestern Snowfallwhich includes the area where the Burning Man festival was held, said Mark Deutschendorf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

The road closures were made shortly before the time a large wooden effigy was supposed to be burned on Saturday night. The organizers said that all the burnings had been postponedand the authorities were working to open exit routes for when the long weekend ended due to the Labor Day in United States.

Officials said late Saturday that they did not yet know when the roads would be “dry enough for motorhomes or vehicles to safely use” but were hopeful they could leave by Monday night if weather conditions improve. .

President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware on Sunday that he was aware of the situation, including the death, and that the White House was in contact with local officials. The president indicated that he does not know the cause of death.


Because the party was closed to motorized traffic, attendees had to wade through the mud, many of them barefoot or carrying plastic bags to protect their feet. Those present were encouraged to tend to their stocks of food and water, and most remained where they were.

However, some managed to walk several kilometers to the nearest town and found transportation there.

The famous DJ Diplo posted a video to Instagram late Saturday that shows him and comedian Chris Rock riding in the back of a fan’s van. He said they had walked almost 10 kilometers through the mud before they found a ride.

“I actually walked on the side of the road for hours with my thumbs up,” wrote Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz.

The event takes place at a remote site and emphasizes self-sufficiencywhich means that most people bring their own food, water, and other supplies.

Those who stayed on Sunday described the community as resisting and trying to look on the bright side of the muddy conditions: many posted selfies of themselves covered in mud, dancing or splashing in the makeshift lakes.

“We haven’t seen any negativity, any difficult times,” organizer Theresa Galeani said. “Some people were supposed to leave a few days ago, so they no longer had water or food. But I am an organizer, so I went around and found more water and food. There’s more than enough here for people. We just have to make it reach everyone.”

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