Burning Man: One dead as flooding strands thousands at Nevada desert festival

World News

One person has died at the desert site of the Burning Man festival in Nevada, local police told multiple news outlets, as 73,000 people are told to conserve food, water and fuel after unprecedented rain closed roads to the site and officials warn festival goers they would not reopen until at least Monday.
Key Takeaways
  • Officials are investigating at least one death at the festival, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office told the Associated Press and CNN.
  • The family of the victim has been notified, but the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office would release no other information on the cause of death Sunday, other than to say the death happened during the event.
  • The gates to Black Rock City—where Burning Man is held—were still closed as of Saturday night as organizers of the annual Burning Man festival prepared for more rain to fall and warned attendees that late in the day Monday was likely the earliest that cars and RVs would be able to leave the campsite “if weather conditions are in our favor.”
  • Organizers told attendees it was possible to walk the five miles to County Road 34, where shuttle buses would be waiting, but warned it was not a “simple” journey and urged anyone who tried it to “make sure you have water and the strength.”
  • Videos and photos from attendees show Black Rock City covered in puddles and mud—organizers started rationing ice sales Saturday, the Reno Gazette Journal reported, and servicing for the thousands of portable toilets at the site is on hold because of stopped traffic.
  • The traditional burning of the festival’s famous wooden effigy on Saturday night, Burning Man’s namesake climax, was also postponed—attendees usually start leaving the desert site on Sunday into Monday morning, after the event.
  • President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation at Burning Man, and the administration is in touch with state and local officials, the White House told reporters.
  • The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for more information Sunday.
Crucial Quote

“Survival mode, here we go,” attendee Max Spooner told the Gazette Journal Saturday.

Key Background

The Burning Man festival has drawn tens of thousands to northwestern Nevada since 1991, and founders have said it attracts people who believe in its 10 guiding principles, which include “radical self-expression,” “civic responsibility” and “radical inclusion.”

Burning Man, which runs for a little longer than a week, features art installations and music, and encourages participants to prioritise an off-grid experience and connection with other attendees.

Black Rock City exists only for the festival and is completely taken down each year between events. This year, more than a half inch of rain is believed to have fallen Friday and more fell Sunday, turning the desert into a pile of sticky mud that was almost impossible to walk through Saturday morning. Attendees and organizers “bring everything we need to survive” to the event about 110 miles north of Reno, and the Gazette Journal reported most festival goers “are taking the muddy conditions in stride.”


A driver with a pickup truck saved the day for comedian Chris Rock and musician Diplo, who were at Burning Man when the rain started. Diplo said the pair walked 6 miles in the mud on Saturday before hitching a ride in the back of the truck with other festival goers. The DJ said in an Instagram post that he “legit walked the side of the road for hours with my thumb out” to make it to a Washington D.C. concert Saturday night.

Surprising Fact

Burning Man was last hit with serious weather in 2013, when hail fell on Black Rock City and more than 150 attendees were stranded.

Big Number

0.34 inches. That’s the average September rainfall in Gerlach, Nevada.)

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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