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Burning Man Gates Reopen After Flooding in the Black Rock Desert

by Alex Bresler Aug 23, 2023

Burning Man organizers are welcoming early arrivals after heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hilary flooded areas of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert and forced gate closures to the event.

Both setup crews and attendees were asked to delay their arrivals to the site where the event is held each year, approximately 100 miles north of Reno, to preserve the surface of the playa. While thick mud caused by the onslaught of rain earlier this week rendered much of the area impassable, the non-profit Burning Man Project that’s responsible for the event also expressed concerns that any tire tracks left in the mud would create ruts in the landscape when dry.

Flooding in the Black Rock Desert is not uncommon. Floods occur at least every few years and help to maintain a firm playa surface. According to a statement released by the Burning Man Project, temporary gate closures are also “not abnormal.” Though much of this week’s rain, which resulted in 0.6 inches of water at the Burning Man site in a single night, has already dried, Tropical Storm Hilary has impacted work-access and early-access passholders.

@mariasoleeeeamore Is the hurricane coming…. 😵‍💫 😓 #blackrockcity #flooding #burningman #blackrockcitynevada #burners #burningman2023 #brc #burningmancommunity #rainfall #mud #crazy ♬ original sound – M A R I A S O L E

Burning Man organizers and early attendees, known as Burners, typically arrive in the playa at least one week in advance of the event to build the temporary Black Rock City, erect the art installations for which the festival is known, and set up their individual camps.

According to a soon-to-be nine-time Burner who spoke with Matador, both Department and Public Works officials and Work Access Pass holders, who were the first to be granted access to the Burning Man site when the gates reopened on Wednesday at noon, “are very far behind by having to delay their arrival by many days.” The source, who has asked to remain anonymous, expects that “some camps might not be fully operable early in the week.”

Tropical Storm Hilary has wreaked havoc on many communities, including those in Southern California that saw record-breaking rainfall, but Matador’s source is optimistic that the dried rain at the Burning Man site will create “a glorious, pristine playa surface full of alligator-style cracking that’s super fun to ride over on a bike,” as well as less dust.

Expecting a fully dry playa by the time he or she arrives on Sunday morning in time for general admission, the Burner notes that neither their travel plans nor packing list were impacted by Tropical Storm Hilary, but that they plan to bring “a bunch of extra socks to gift to the people who were stuck out there during the muddy time.”

Approximately 80,000 people are expected to attend Burning Man this year. The event is set to begin on its original start date of Sunday, August 27, and run through Monday, September 4.

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