Thousands of attendees of the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert were stranded over the weekend after heavy rain on Friday night led officials to close the road that leads in and out of the makeshift town.
Organizers said on Monday that the main road to the campsite had reopened and the “exodus” had begun around midday as the ground dried up.
Attendees were at one point told to conserve food and water. The festival’s main event, the burning of a towering humanlike sculpture, was postponed twice before finally taking place on Monday night.
How did people get trapped?
The festival is held each year in Black Rock City, a temporary community created in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada.
Each year, it hosts more than 70,000 people who travel from around the world to the desolate, arid landscape. Those people typically have to contend with fine dust, not mud and rain.
It is far from major cities — the nearest is Reno, Nev., more than 100 miles away.
To get to Burning Man, people must either travel the two-lane rural highway that leads to the festival’s gate or fly into its small, temporary airport.
The rain prompted the closure of the route in and out of Burning Man, but the event’s organizers reopened the road at midday Monday, though some travelers were still getting stuck on the long trek out. Even in normal years, leaving the site can take up to 12 hours, as thousands of vehicles creep across the desert and onto the road; early Tuesday, the wait was estimated to be about eight hours.
The muddy conditions also obstructed the ability of event organizers to move heavy equipment, including for fire safety, to the site of the climactic Man Burn, which was twice postponed, according to a social media account affiliated with The Burning Man Project. The festival’s namesake wooden effigy was eventually burned on Monday night.
How did people get out before Monday?
For the most part, they walked, drove an alternate route off-road or hitched a ride out.
In a social media post, the Diplo, the D.J. and producer, said he and Chris Rock had “walked 5 miles in the mud” to get out.
Some vehicles with four-wheel drive were able to get through the mud, organizers said, while cautioning that other vehicles were getting stuck in the mud, making it more difficult for everyone to leave.
Orlando Mayorquin, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Remy Tumin contributed reporting.