Muddy roads flooded by an unusual desert rainstorm that stranded tens of thousands of people for days at the Burning Man counterculture festival have dried up enough to allow a mass exodus from the site in the Southwestern United States.
Organisers of the event in the state of Nevada said they started to let traffic flow out of the main road on Monday even as they urged festival-goers to delay their exit to help ease traffic. About two hours after the rush began, organisers estimated a wait time of about five hours.
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“Exodus operations have officially begun in Black Rock City. The driving ban has been lifted. Take it slow and mind those directing traffic,” a Burning Man Project statement said.
About 30,000 people remained at the site as of Monday.
The event is remote on the best of days and emphasises self-sufficiency. During the flooding, revelers were urged to conserve their food and water, and most remained hunkered down at the site.
“We are a little bit dirty and muddy, but spirits are high. The party’s still going,” said Scott London, a Southern California photographer.
The annual gathering, which launched on a San Francisco beach in 1986, attracts nearly 80,000 artists, musicians and activists for a mix of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances.
The event traditionally culminates with the burning of a large wooden effigy shaped like a man and a wood temple structure during the final two nights. But the fires were postponed as authorities worked to reopen exit routes by the end of the Labor Day weekend.
Mostly clear and dry
“The Man” was torched on Monday night while, weather permitting, the temple will go up in flames on Tuesday evening.
The National Weather Service in Reno, Nevada, said it should stay mostly clear and dry at the festival site although some light rain could pass through on Tuesday morning.
Disruptions are part of the event’s recent history: Dust storms forced organisers to temporarily close entrances to the festival in 2018, and the event was twice canceled altogether during the pandemic.
Organizers also asked attendees not to walk out of the Black Rock Desert – about 110 miles (177km) north of Reno – as others had done throughout the weekend, including celebrity DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock.
The festival had been closed to vehicles after more than a half-inch (1.3cm) of rain fell on Friday, causing flooding and deep mud.
The road closures came just before the first of the two ceremonial fires signaling an end to the festival was scheduled to begin on Saturday night.
At least one fatality has been reported, but organizers said the death of a man in his 40s was not weather-related. The sheriff of nearby Pershing County said he was investigating.