Roads out of Burning Man might reopen today for tens of thousands still trapped after intense rain left the festival site smothered in mud

Sep 4, 2023, 11:00 AM

Attendees walk through a muddy desert plain on Saturday at the Burning Man festival site 	Nevada, S...

Attendees walk through a muddy desert plain on Saturday at the Burning Man festival site Nevada, September 2, 2023. (Julie JAMMOT/AFP/Getty Images)

(Julie JAMMOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Originally Published: 04 SEP 23 01:40 ET
Updated: 04 SEP 23 12:21 ET

(CNN) — Roads out of the Burning Man festival could reopen Monday for the estimated 72,000 people trapped for a third day in the Nevada desert after heavy rains smothered the grounds with ankle-deep mud too thick to drive on.

Roads leading in and out of the Black Rock City event were closed Saturday, and event organizers imposed shelter-in-place orders. Attendees were told to conserve food, water and fuel after the deluge made it virtually impossible for vehicles to drive on the surface, authorities said.

The remote area in northwest Nevada was hit with two to three months’ worth of rain – up to 0.8 inches – in just 24 hours between Friday and Saturday morning. About 72,000 people remain on site, according to a Sunday night update from Burning Man organizers.

The weeklong festival is scheduled to end Monday, but it’s unclear exactly when attendees will be allowed to drive out of the area.

“Gate Road remains too wet & muddy for most vehicles to safely navigate out of BRC this morning, but is drying,” Burning Man organizers said Monday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

The “Exodus” could begin around noon (3 p.m. ET) Monday, the organizers said. “We will update you again in the next few hours.”

Sunny and dry conditions over western Nevada on Monday will allow “significant improvement to the muddy conditions at the Burning Man festival,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. The high temperature is expected to reach about 75 degrees.

Diplo and Chris Rock trudge, then hitchhike

Some have already left the site by plodding through the thick mud, but “most of the RVs are stuck in place,” Pershing County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Nathan Carmichael said Sunday.

“Each step felt like we were walking with two big cinder blocks on our feet,” said Amar Singh Duggal, who managed to leave the festival with his friends after hiking about 2 miles in the mud.

Among those who trekked through the sludge was DJ Diplo, who spent hours hiking in the mud to try to get to his concert hours later in Washington, DC.

“I have some pretty strong leg muscles after that walk,” Diplo told CNN on Monday morning. He credited duct tape and good boots that “were like three pounds each at one point” for helping him walk miles.

Then a fan offered Diplo – real name Thomas Wesley Pentz – and comedian Chris Rock a ride.

“Some kid recognized me on the road and said, ‘Hey, I’ll give you a ride for the next two miles.’ And of course, we gladly took it.” Diplo said. He said he’s thanking the “awesome” young man with admission to shows.

The symbolic bonfire gets rescheduled

The burning of the man – the huge totem set on fire at the festival’s culmination – was rescheduled from Sunday night to Monday because of the poor weather, organizers said Sunday evening.

A death at the festival on Friday was “unrelated to the weather,” Burning Man organizers said Sunday night.

“Our emergency services department reached a call for service extremely quickly for a male, approximately 40 years old, and could not resuscitate the patient,” organizers said, without giving further details.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said it is investigating the death.

Resources have been brought in from around northern Nevada to help people with medical needs on the event grounds, the sheriff’s office said.

Organizers also got more four-wheel-drive vehicles and all-terrain tires to help transport people with medical and other urgent needs.

Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis erected annually for the festival, comes complete with emergency, safety and sanitary infrastructure.

“We have done table-top drills for events like this,” festival organizers said. “We are engaged full-time on all aspects of safety and looking ahead to our Exodus as our next priority.”

While some attendees adapt, others are ‘beside themselves’

Festivalgoers – accustomed to braving the Nevada desert’s extreme heat – have instead contended with rain and mud, rationing supplies and dealing with connectivity issues.

As roads in and out remain closed, attendees were stepping up and offering food and shelter to those who need it, festivalgoer Gillian Bergeron told CNN on Sunday.

“Most of the folks out there that go out somewhat regularly, they certainly made the best of it,” Bergeron said. “It’s a great community, people were helping each other offering food and water and shelter to those who needed it. If anything, I think it probably made the core community stronger.”

Another attendee stuck at the Burning Man, Andrew Hyde, said the weather has taken the meaning of the event back to its roots.

“You come out here to be in a harsh climate, and you prepare for that,” Hyde told CNN on Saturday.

Burning Man also described high morale among attendees who were sharing resources. “There is music playing, camp meals being shared, socializing, and walking around the playa to look at art and interact as a community,” organizers said in a Sunday night update.

There are, however, worries about when roads will open.

“People need to go back to their jobs, back to the responsibilities they have back home,” Hyde said.

Bergeron also saw people begin to grow concerned.

“There were certainly some people that were absolutely beside themselves and that were asking if their tickets would be reimbursed … they were missing their flights,” she said.

“It kind of just depended on their level of experience out there, their level of comfort out there and then potentially wherever they had to be come Monday or Tuesday morning.”

Still, the poor conditions have not stopped the creativity, first-time attendee Hannah Burhorn said.

“People are building mud sculptures,” she said Saturday evening.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Usher performing at the 2023 iHeartRadio Living Black Block Party in Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter/Get...

Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

Usher will headline the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show

Grammy-winning artist Usher is saying “Yeah!” to headlining the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show.

4 days ago

Shelves of bottled water were far from full Friday at Fremin's Food Market in Port Sulphur, Louisia...

Jamiel Lynch and Rachel Ramirez, CNN

An October saltwater intrusion could threaten drinking water in New Orleans, so they’ll barge in 36 million gallons of fresh water a day

The US Army Corps is planning to barge 36 million gallons of fresh water daily into the lower Mississippi River near New Orleans.

5 days ago

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and children gather in the coastal city of Netanya on September 21, to pe...

Sofia Barrett, CNN

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Here’s what that means

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year for people who practice Judaism.

5 days ago

Senator Bernie Sanders addresses the audience during a rally in support of striking United Auto Wor...

Eva Rothenberg, CNN

Contract negotiations: UAW strike puts the four-day workweek back in focus

Originally Published: 17 SEP 23 17:02 ET (CNN) — When the United Auto Workers called a strike last week against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, one of their demands focused on an idea circulating on the periphery of labor reform circles. In addition to calling for a 36% pay raise and increased job security, union […]

11 days ago

After Drew Barrymore initially announced plans to resume production of her daytime talk show, the W...

Alli Rosenbloom and Lisa Respers France, CNN

Drew Barrymore and ‘The Talk’ pause show returns as writers and actors remain on strike

Drew Barrymore announced that she will pause the premiere of her talk show

12 days ago

Generac has recalled about 64,000 of its portable generators after reports of overheating resulting...

Michelle Watson, CNN

Generac recalls around 64,000 portable generators amid hurricane season

As hurricane season continues to knock out power supplies Generac Power Systems says its recalling thousands of portable generators.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Roads out of Burning Man might reopen today for tens of thousands still trapped after intense rain left the festival site smothered in mud