Here’s Why Thousands of People Are Trapped at Burning Man

A death at the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada is under investigation amid a gruesome weekend of heavy rain showers that left thousands of attendees stranded and with limited cell service and communication in the area.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has shared no further details about the cause of death or the victim’s identity, but did share that “the family has been notified,” in a press release.

The death was announced a day after festival’s organizers encouraged people to shelter in place and conserve food and water after the rains made the drive out of the festival grounds nearly impossible. “No driving is permitted on playa except for emergency vehicles. If you are in BRC, please shelter in place and stay safe,” the organizer’s tweeted.

Some 70,000 people that gathered at this year’s festival have been impacted by over a half inch of rain that made the ground muddy and difficult to pass through. Some festival-goers who have chosen to drive off have damaged the”playa” terrain, according to the Sheriff’s office. Attendees who had been planning on traveling to the event were told by organizers to not come.

“Access to the city is closed for the remainder of the event, and you will be turned around,” organizers said on Saturday.

Burning Man was expected to run from Aug. 27 through Sep. 4. Here’s what to know.

What happened?

After heavy rain conditions hit the area on Friday, the desert floor became increasingly tough to travel on and difficult to leave, prompting officials to close access to the vicinity. Only four-wheel vehicles with all-terrain tires were likely to be able to make the trip out, according to festival organizers.

As of Sunday morning, gates to the event are still closed. “The gate and airport in and out of Black Rock City remain closed. Ingress and egress are halted until further notice,” the organizers first announced on Friday.

Weather forecasts show that rain and scattered thunderstorms are expected to impact the area throughout various points of the day. The inclement weather has also delayed the festival’s annual burning effigy, which was originally set to take place on Saturday night.

On Sunday, frustration reportedly grew amid festival-goers that were unable to leave by vehicle. Although organizers said people could leave the event by foot, there is a 5-mile trek to the nearest paved road and organizers advised that it shouldn’t be done at night. Organizers arranged a shuttle bus to transport people from Gerlach to Reno for those who have made the walk because hotel rooms in Gerlach are full, according to Burning Man staff.

“This isn’t a simple solution, but it is a possible one should you need or want to make the trek.” Among those choosing to leave Burning Man are celebrities. Diplo tweeted that he and Chris Rock walked out of the festival before being picked up by a fan.

On Saturday, organizers also said that they would bring in mobile cell trailers and open internet access to the public. They also revealed that they are not sure when the terrain will be dry enough to make access in and out of the festival easier.

“We do not currently have an estimated time for the roads to be dry enough for RVs or vehicles to navigate safely. Monday late in the day would be possible if weather conditions are in our favor. We will let you know. It could be sooner, and it could be later,” organizers said in a press release last updated on Sep 2.

Attendees can listen to Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR) 94.5 FM for more updates.

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