A D.C. man is one of tens of thousands of people stranded at and around the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert on Sunday after severe storms swept through the area.
The counterculture gathering in the Black Rock Desert about 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Reno typically attracts nearly 80,000 artists, musicians and activists who spend tens of millions of dollars in Nevada. Combining wilderness camping with avant-garde performances, the event typically goes for a week and emphasizes self-sufficiency — meaning most people bring in their own food, water and other supplies.
Darrell Duane, who lives in Columbia Heights, says he’s experienced extreme rain at the event before, but nothing like this year’s storm and the following muddy conditions.
“We’ve got muddy roads that are clogged up,” Duane told WTOP. “When you walk in your boots, you just collect about one or two inches of mud and you get a little taller and get definitely a lot more wobbly, so it’s hard to walk around and you don’t go as fast.”
Because of the storm, organizers closed vehicular access to the festival and attendees trudged through mud, many barefoot or wearing plastic bags on their feet. Revelers for the festival were urged to shelter in place and conserve food, water and other supplies. Authorities in the area are investigating a possible death and are working to open exit paths by the end of the Labor Day weekend.
Duane said that they’ve had to adjust their structures to protect themselves from the rain. They still have electricity, which is provided from a generator at neighboring camps.
“We knew this was coming, so on Friday we worked hard to stock up. We got our water delivery and a 3,000 gallon bladder,” he said.
And they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Duane said that they are to be there until at least Thursday or Friday.
“We’ve just had to ration the water. We can’t take showers anymore, that kind of thing,” he said.
When asked about the possible fatality this weekend, Duane said that because of the magnitude of the event, it wasn’t as unusual as one might think.
“Burning Man is a living breathing city of nearly 80,000 people. And every year there are other fatalities that happen,” he said. “One fatality is par for course in a week at Burning Man, actually.”
Because of the mud and complications, Duane said they’re not able to visit people in other parts of the settlement they were expecting to see. Still, they have bonded with people who are in their immediate camp.
“We’re able to come together and share more stories and music around the campfire at night,” Duane said. “And just stay close.”
DJ Diplo posted a video to Instagram on Saturday showing him and comedian Chris Rock riding in the back of a fan’s pickup truck after he said that they walked six miles through the mud before hitching a ride.
“We expect to get through this pretty much fine and just coming out of a little later than we wanted to, but that’ll be alright. So we look forward to being back to D.C. and getting the dust out of our clothes,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Duane mentioned a particular bonus in the aftermath of the rains.
“So there’s rainbows, we’ve had a double rainbow yesterday that was beautiful,” he said. “And, you know, it is what it is. Just take it as it comes and and and roll with it. And we Burners are good at doing that.
WTOP’s Mike Murillo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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