Why Burning Man’s Flood, Delay in Evacuation Is a Lesson in Extreme Weather

Burning Man must come and go like a desert breeze.

At the end of each summer, participants venture to the Nevada wilderness for a multi-day mega-festival. Their motto: “Leave no trace.”

This year, thousands are stuck in the mud after about half an inch of rain in the nation’s driest state. Leaving no trace, many self-described “burners” abandoned bicycles and vehicles in the sodden, muddy Black Rock Desert.

Once an underground festival for free spirits, Burning Man is now a popular party spot for Hollywood stars, Silicon Valley tech bros and other jet-set elites. The latest event offers a glimpse into how extreme weather can dramatically change the environment in an instant – and often – more often.

“It’s a teachable moment as far as climate disasters and extreme weather go,” said Anya Kamenetz, a Burning Man participant who was forced to leave the festival. “It’s really a test run, very easy for conditions that a lot of people go through.”

No single storm can be attributed to climate change. But flooding is expected to become more frequent in Nevada as storms intensify and turn into snow and rain due to warmer temperatures. According to state officials.

As the festival kicks off on Aug. 27, climate activists blocked A road into burning man in protest of its environmental footprint.

This year’s event is expected to fuel critics who have been celebrating the festival for a long time Littering in surrounding communities Crowds don’t live up to their eco-conscious goals when they leave camp. Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said festival-goers made the long walk, leaving behind more than usual, including cars.

“This behavior certainly does not fall within the 10 principles of Burning Man,” he said. The boycott is “a social issue” and not the fault of the Burning Man project, the group behind the festival.

Burning Man participants seek shelter as rain falls in Black Rock City, Nev., on Sept. 2. (Video: The Washington Post)

The Burning Man rained down

First, the drizzle helped settle some of the dust swirling around the camp. But by Friday evening, the rain hadn’t stopped — and it didn’t take much rainfall to turn the playa into a muddy mess.

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“By the time we went to bed that night, it was clear that this was going to be a matter of shutting down the city,” Kamenetz said. writes Substock Newsletter on Climate Change.

By Saturday morning, the burners were stuck. Those who remained held a camp meeting, Kamenetz said. No more showers, no more washing dishes. A portable toilet cannot be used except for solid waste.

Black Rock City, Nev., Sept. Drone video taken on 2 showed a muddy field at Burning Man. (Video: Anonymous via Storyful)

The organizers don’t know when the participants will leave emphasized The rest to save food, water and fuel. The gates of what was supposed to be a desert oasis and the airport were closed inside and out.

Therefore, shelter in place of burners. Festival goers covered their tents with tarps to ward off the rain. The mud was so thick and sticky that many abandoned their walking books and walked through the camp barefoot or with plastic bags slipped over their socks.

To dig mud out of a portable toilet, Kamenetz unfurls a decorative gold shovel attached to a zebra-striped, safari-themed vehicle brought to Burning Man as an “art car.”

“That’s gold,” she said of the shovel. “It’s not gold anymore.”

Activists tried to make the best out of a bad situation. During the day, the team carved an elephant statue out of mud. At night, they played music. Perhaps, as a sign that things are about to get better, rainbows arced across the playa on Saturday.

“People haven’t really missed a beat,” Kamenetz said.

‘Better prepared than the average Joe Schmoe’

This year’s Burning Man brought the worst weather Christine Lee has seen in the eight years she’s attended the festival.

But many Burners, especially festival veterans, are resourceful and well-prepared to survive a week-plus off-the-grid, said the 39-year-old circus performer. Lee traveled with friends in a converted van built so they had heat, air conditioning and power — as well as stacks of foil-wrapped tuna packages.

“I had enough tuna for an extra week,” Lee said. Despite the panicked moments of overflowing toilets and calls to reserve food and water, she said people who come to Burning Man live by principles of self-reliance and community.

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“They’re going to be better prepared than the average Joe Schmoe,” Lee added.

The video, taken on September 2, showed Burning Man participants wading through the mud. (Video: Deborah Thomas via Storyful)

Burning Man is known to be mostly stopped, though the social contract has seen human waste outside a trailer and lots of forks and trash — scenes he hasn’t seen in the past year. Lee said that a small percentage of participants behaved selfishly.

He said the wider community has stepped up to clean up the grounds and shelter and feed the Burners, who struggle with dwindling resources. Burning Man is famously “non-commercial” – or at least strives to be – meaning everything, including food and bicycle repairs, is barter and community based.

“It totally worked — there’s nowhere else I’d rather be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse,” Lee said. “I see people walking with garbage bags, giving water, giving food. You clearly see someone suffering because they’re hungry and don’t have a banjo, and you help them.

A video taken on September 2 showed attendees making a clay effigy of Burning Man. (Video: christineleecirque via Storyful)

Reno, the largest nearby city, is in the midst of its second wettest year, according to Scott McGuire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The region has entered a “boom-or-bust” mode, oscillating between wet and drought years when it rains. “We’re swinging on this pendulum,” McGuire said.

He added that rainfall like the one that fell over the Labor Day weekend was unusual but not unprecedented in the region.

The southwestern United States has seen above-normal rainfall this year as an active monsoon and Tropical Storm Hillary passed through. Around the same time, Burning Man drenched rain caused flooding in Las Vegas, which received 2.55 inches of rain during the monsoon season. 11th place in the record.

On Friday, the weather service’s forecast called for isolated thunderstorms and scattered showers in the area over the weekend.

Marion Goodell is the chief executive of the Burning Man project told NBC News The team prepared for the “full spectrum” of weather scenarios.

“We chose a dry lake bed,” he said. “Ecology is always an environment of survival.”

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Still on Sunday, an evacuation was underway even on the roads was closed. On Labor Day, people pushed RVs and kicked mud from under the wheels to get them moving. Others hoofed it. Kamenetz walked more than three miles through the mud to catch a bus.

Burning Man participants try to free their vehicles from the mud on September 4. (Video: The Washington Post)

Every year, large piles of trash are left in Reno and other places outside the desert, Pershing County Sheriff Allen said.

“This year is a little different, with lots of vehicles scattered across the playa for miles,” he added. “Some participants did not want to wait or use the beaten path in their attempt to leave the desert and had to abandon their vehicles and personal property at their vehicle rest stop.”

The Burning Man project involved Allen in charge of cleaning up trash in the desert. The project did not materialize immediately Respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.

Tuesday morning, Pershing County Sheriff’s Sgt., said the departure was “smooth” despite the heavy traffic. Nathan Carmichael said. The only major incident at Burning Man that the sheriff’s office was actively investigating Monday was the death of Leon Reese, a 32-year-old festival goer who was unresponsive Friday.

Sep. Drone video on the 4th showed vehicles leaving the Burning Man festival. (Video: Reuters)

Reno-Tahoe International Airport is back to “business as usual” after Labor Day passenger and burner arrivals doubled, spokeswoman Stacey Sunday said.

The airport had about 7,000 passengers on Monday, TSA said Sunday, citing data — compared with 4,000 to 6,000 passengers on a typical day.

One of the ways airport officials usually prepare for Burning Man travelers is to keep plastic bags on hand to wrap their dust-covered luggage to avoid clogging the baggage machines. This year, the airport provided passengers with disposable shoes to cover their muddy shoes.

“[It’s] “Our biggest thing is because there’s construction going on outside, there’s no curb to sit the burners on and do flight arrangements,” said Sunday. “They’re in or out, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal.”

Burning Man participants ignited a large wooden effigy of a man on September 4. (Video: Amanda Richey via Storyful)

This year’s experience didn’t deter Lee from Burning Man, though he plans to pack more boots and ponchos in case of bad weather next year. Even the heavy rain made for a happy, artistic memory, she said. Shortly after the rain subsided last weekend, people began walking the streets and creating clay art: clay staffs and Buddhas and snowmen.

But Kamenetz, who has attended nine times, said this would be his last Burning Man, a decision he considered before the rain.

“Is this how I want to spend my free time?”

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

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