One death reported after storms leave thousands stranded at Burning Man Festival

Updated September 2, 2023 at 9:32 PM ET

Authorities in Nevada are investigating a death at the site of the Burning Man festival, where thousands of attendees are stranded due to flooding from storms.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said the death happened during the event but offered few details, including the identity of the deceased person, KNSD-TV reported.

Close-to-an-inch of precipitation created mud-bath-like conditions in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where the annual event takes place.

In an update on X (formerly Twitter), the Burning Man Organization said access into and out of the site is closed for the remainder of the event. Only emergency vehicles are being allowed to pass, the organization said in a statement.

“Conserve food, water, and fuel, and shelter in a warm, safe space,” the statement urged those stuck in the desert.

In a later statement, the festival added: “We have come here knowing this is a place where we bring everything we need to survive… we are all well-prepared for a weather event like this.”

“We have done table-top drills for events like this. We are engaged full-time on all aspects of safety and looking ahead to our Exodus as our next priority.”

They pledged to drop mobile cell trailers and open up the internet, as well as try to help with buses out of the area. “Get some rest and spend some quality time with your campmates” the later statement said. “We will all get out of this, it will just take time.”

Attendee Bobby White, who hosts the TV series Sailing Doodles, squelched through the mud in a YouTube video against a backdrop of gunmetal skies and soggy tents.

“Every time you step, you pick up more mud and it’s just really hard to move,” White said. “There is absolutely no way you could move a vehicle through this right now.”

Still, event volunteer Josh Lease said spirits on the ground remain high. In true Burning Man spirit, he said people are helping each other out — sharing warm clothes and phone chargers where they can — and music is blaring.

“It’s like any other Burning Man, just muddy,” he told NPR.

The weather has forced the postponement of some art installation burns, including the burning of the namesake wooden-man effigy, a ritual that traditionally happens on Saturday night.

The Washoe County sheriff’s office said it’s working with the Bureau of Land Management, a federal body that patrols and permits the event, and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office to stay updated on the situation and offer support as needed.

This isn’t the first time the entrance has been blocked at this year’s festival.

A group of climate protesters caused miles of gridlock after parking a 28-foot trailer in the way at the start of the event.

More rain is expected through the weekend.

“I think we’re stuck here for another three or four days before we can get off this playa,” White said. “Maybe longer.”

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