Thousands remain stranded at Burning Man festival after torrential weather conditions caused the desert plains to turn to mud. Punters are waiting on the green signal to leave today as boggy conditions clear.
The washout has now cleared and the ground is said to be drying, but “a little over 70,000” still remained on the festival site as of yesterday, September 3, as the festival was due to end, according to Nathan Carmichael, a sergeant from Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.
The weeklong festival – attended by some 70,000 people annually – is held in Black Rock City in Nevada, a dried desert lake bed that typically sees extremely hot weather each year when Burning Man takes place. The festival was delayed kicking off this year due to nearby Hurricane Hillary.
Heavy rain conditions began over the weekend, causing the landscape to churn into a “mud bath” with two to three months’ worth of rainfall in just 24 hours between Friday and Saturday.
Punters were urged to take shelter and conserve food and water until conditions improved, while all toilets ceased to work. Festivalgoers were also unable to manoeuvre through the thick mud in vehicles and were told to remain on site until the ground had dried.
The BBC reported this morning that the ground is now dry enough for vehicles to begin moving again without getting stuck in the mud. Roads are expected to open again, with further updates due from Burning Man today.
Organisers have warned against walking around barefoot in the mud to avoid “playa foot”, a chemical reaction caused by the alkaline soil of the dried lake bed that can burn your skin.
Speaking to CBS News, actor Justin Schuman explained: “It’s very alkaline so you do have to be careful for no prolonged exposure of your skin to the mud because apparently it can start to really gently burn your skin.”
On the festival atmosphere, Schuman added: “What I have seen personally is resilience. I’ve seen a huge amount of people coming together, I have seen strangers hugging strangers, I have seen people gifting things to others.”
The annual effigy burning, which takes place on the last day of Burning Man each year, has been postponed. Organisers are hopeful it will go ahead tonight, September 4, instead.
One 40-year-old man died at the festival over the weekend, authorities reported on Saturday. His death was said to be “unrelated” to the weather conditions, but few details have been given.
Emergency services were called in regards to the unnamed man on Friday after he was found unresponsive on the playa, festival organisers said, but they were unable to resuscitate him. His next of kin have been informed.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter
Written by: Tim Hopkins