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Tens of thousands at Burning Man told to conserve water and food after heavy rains leave attendees stranded in Nevada desert

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Tens of thousands of people attending the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert are being told to conserve food, water and fuel as they shelter in place in the Black Rock Desert after a heavy rainstorm pummelled the area, festival organizers said.


Attendees at the annual festival were surrounded by thick, ankle-deep mud and organizers halted vehicles from travelling in or out of the area after heavy rains started saturating the area starting Friday evening.


Hannah Burhorn, a first-time attendee at the festival, told CNN in a phone interview Saturday the desert sand has turned into thick clay and puddles and mud are everywhere. People are wrapping trash bags and Ziploc bags around their shoes to avoid getting stuck, while others are walking around barefoot.


“It’s unavoidable at this point,” she said. “It’s in the bed of the truck, inside the truck. People who have tried to bike through it and have gotten stuck because it’s about ankle deep.”


The gate and airport into Black Rock City, a remote area in northwest Nevada, remain closed and no driving is allowed into or out of the city except for emergency vehicles, the organizers said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.


“Do not travel to Black Rock City! Access to the city is closed for the remainder of the event, and you will be turned around,” one statement read.


More than 70,000 people attend the weeklong event annually, which this year is being held from August 28 to September 5. It’s unclear how many of those were stranded due to the weather.


The city is expecting more showers overnight on Saturday, organizers said in a weather forecast update. The National Weather Service shows showers and thunderstorms are expected to return Saturday evening and continue throughout Sunday, with temperatures ranging from highs in the 70s to a low overnight of 49 degrees.


The festival, which began in 1986, is held each summer in Black Rock City – a temporary metropolis that is erected annually for the festival.


It is best known for its concluding event, in which a large wooden symbol of a man is ignited. The event attracts tens of thousands each year and in the past, celebrities from Sean “Diddy” Combs to Katy Perry have attended.


The tens of thousands of attendees travel to and from the city along a two-lane highway to get to the festival, according to its website. The festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Burning Man participants dedicate their time to making art and building community. They can learn how to spin fire, or to pole dance, to make shrink art jewelry or build a giant sculpture of two people embracing and burn it down.


Some on-site preparations for this year’s Burning Man were impacted by tropical storm Hilary in August, with high winds, rainfall and even flooding reported in the desert, CNN reported.


Burhorn said she and her friends were not expecting any rain – only extreme heat. She said people trapped in the desert have limited cell service, making it almost impossible to get news on weather conditions or receive updates from festival organizers.


“It’s all been completely word of mouth,” she said. “I just talked to my boyfriend on the phone who gave me a weather update. I was like, ‘can you tell me what’s going on in the news? We have no clue.’”


Burhorn said the mud is so thick that it “sticks to your shoes and makes it almost like a boot around your boot,” making it even more difficult to move around, she added.


The silver lining, Burhorn said, is people are walking from camp to camp to check on others and make sure they have enough food and water. “People are still really looking out for each other, which is like a bubble of love.”

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