The organizers of Burning Man are hoping to push forward with its namesake tradition despite the heavy rain that left more than 70,000 people stranded in the desert.
The annual festival is held in a pop-up makeshift town in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada each summer and usually involves a ceremony, during which an art installation is burned. This year, excessive rain has turned the desert into a mud pit, making it impossible for many cars to drive over safely, and difficult for people to walk through. At least one person died during the rain event, but organizers said the death was “unrelated to the weather.”
“Our emergency services department reached a call for service extremely quickly for a male, approximately 40 years old, and could not resuscitate the patient,” they added.
The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office announced the fatality on Saturday but did not provide further details disclosing the identity of the person.
As many festivalgoers remain at Black Rock, the life force of the festival — community — persists.
“We plan to burn the Man at 9:30 pm tonight, weather permitting. We will share additional information by noon today,” an account run by the festival’s organizers initially posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
But, the weather thwarted the plans to “burn the Man.”
“Due to rain & muddy conditions Sunday & an inability to move heavy equipment & fire safety onsite, the Man Burn will not happen tonight, Sunday,” the account posted in an update on Sunday evening. “It is now scheduled for Monday 9/4, at 9pm. Chapel of Babel is scheduled to burn at midnight, Tuesday 9/5 (i.e. Monday night 9/4).”
The area is under a flood watch until noon on Monday, the day the festival was scheduled to end, according to the National Weather Service.
“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” the service added. “Flooding may occur in poor drainage and urban areas. Low-water crossings may be flooded. Storm drains and ditches may become clogged with debris.”
Despite the rain-soaked grounds, Burning Man’s CEO Marian Goodell told NBC News that they are not asking people to evacuate the festival.
“There is no cause for panic,” Goodell told NBC News.
“We’ve made it really clear that we do not see this as an evacuation situation,” Goodell told the outlet, adding that the soaked grounds were drying.
Earlier in the weekend, festival organizers recommended that people take shelter, look out for one another and “conserve” food and water until conditions get better.
“We are great. It is a great community. We rallied together. Staff has plans X, Y and Z, and everybody’s kind of having a good time, oddly enough,” a festivalgoer named Dawne Looney told CNN.
“Weather has got us. We are working it out,” Looney added. “Some people are, you know, a little upset that we are not driving. But it’s in everybody’s best interest to shelter in place.”
As the shelter-in-place continues, there is a chance that attendees will experience health issues such as hyperthermia and dehydration, according to NBC News, citing a volunteer medic. The medic also said there were concerns about the chance of excessive drug use and overflowing Porta-Potties at the festival.
There is also the possibility of worsening conditions from the rain.
“There is more rain forecast for the next few days, which could cause further delays and disruptions for participants attempting to leave the Festival as well as other operations within the Festival,” the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation.