In a turn of events, the entrance to the highly anticipated Burning Man counterculture festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada has been closed due to severe flooding caused by intense storms. The festival, which began on August 27 and was scheduled to conclude on September 4, has urged all attendees to shelter in place and conserve essential resources.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, responsible for overseeing the event, announced the closure of the entrance for the remainder of the festival. With no driving permitted, except for emergency vehicles, festivalgoers were advised to be cautious and limit their use of food, water, and fuel. The Black Rock City Municipal Airport, a temporary establishment erected specifically for Burning Man, was also shut down as a result of the inclement weather.
According to the National Weather Service in Reno, approximately 6 inches of rain fell on Friday alone, causing extensive flooding throughout the festival site located approximately 110 miles north of Reno. The forecast predicted a chance of showers and thunderstorms for Saturday night and Sunday, with an additional quarter-inch of rain expected on Sunday.
News of the flooding spread rapidly on social media, with one attendee, Spencer Brown, a DJ, sharing the chaotic scene and assuring his followers of his safety, along with his campmates. He mentioned the abundance of water, food, and shelter they had managed to secure, even going as far as conserving power by turning off the Starlink.
The closure of the Burning Man entrance was confirmed by the Washoe Sheriff's Office, who advised individuals to avoid traveling to the festival area and assured that anyone attempting to enter would be turned away. This closure was a joint decision made by the Bureau of Land Management and the Pershing County Sheriff's Office due to the recent rainfall and subsequent flooding.
Meanwhile, Burning Man organizers urged attendees to remain in their designated locations and prepare for adverse weather conditions that were expected to persist through the night and into Saturday. With the threat of flash floods looming over various regions of Nevada, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch, applicable until Monday morning, for areas including eastern, north central, northeast, and south central Nevada.
As Friday night unfolded, Black Rock City experienced rainfall ranging between 0.6 to 0.8 inches, according to updates from festival organizers on Saturday morning. They reported that the low-pressure system responsible for the previous day's rainfall had shifted westward, bringing partly sunny skies and light winds. However, the reprieve would be short-lived as rain was expected to return early Sunday morning and persist until the afternoon, as the low-pressure system moved eastward across Black Rock City.
In light of the circumstances, Burning Man organizers continued to stress the importance of preparing for adverse weather conditions. They advised attendees to conserve food, water, and fuel and seek shelter in warm and safe spaces. The exact number of people attending this year's festival remains unclear, but Burningman.org estimates that tens of thousands typically gather annually for the event.
As the closure of the Burning Man entrance and the ongoing flooding disrupted the festivities, organizers and participants alike were left to navigate the challenges brought on by Mother Nature. Now, the countdown begins to see if the festival can recover and conclude on a high note, once the storm clouds dissipate and the desert returns to its usual arid state.