Last Updated on September 4, 2023

The annual Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert is facing a number of challenges this year, including low ticket sales, flooding, and protests by climate activists.

As per the latest updates, some 70.000 attendees are stranded at the site where the event is taking place, unable to leave after 2 to 3 months worth of downpour occurred in the span of 24 hours. The police is investigating the death of one person, but no further information has been released so far.

The festival has endured a gauntlet of unprecedented challenges this year, making it an edition that will go down in history, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Below, all the things that went wrong – so far:

1. Lower Ticket Sales Than Anticipated

Burning Man is one of the most anticipated events of the year, with tickets usually hard to find and sold at prohibitive prices, but this year it was much easier, and cheaper to find a ticket, due to low sales.

Many resale tickets have been priced below face value as some guests skipped or wavered on attending the typically pricey affair.

The 2022 Burning Man festival was plagued by extreme heat and dust, which made it difficult for attendees to enjoy the event.

This may have discouraged some people from attending the 2023 festival, even though current burners are experiencing the exact opposite problem, with heavy rains, floods and thunderstorms plaguing the playa.

2. Delays Prior to Launch Due to Flooding

The heavy rains that occurred just a couple of days prior to launch caused the playa to become muddy and impassable, which made it difficult for people to get to the event and for artists to construct their art installations.

The delayed opening of the gate also caused problems for people who had already arrived at Black Rock City and were waiting to enter the festival.

The flooding was caused by a combination of factors, including Tropical Storm Hilary and a series of thunderstorms. The rains were particularly heavy in the Black Rock Desert, which is located in a low-lying area.

We finally got a Lazy River on the playa!
by u/Highway_27 in BurningMan

3. The Climate Activists Roadblock and Clash with the Police

A group of climate activists blocked the highway leading to Burning Man on August 27, 2023. The protest caused a traffic jam and led to some confrontations between the activists and Burning Man attendees. The activists were protesting Burning Man’s environmental impact.

The activists go under the name of the Seven Circles, which includes members of the climate groups Extinction Rebellion, Rave Revolution, and Scientist Rebellion, demanded that Burning Man ban private jets, single-use plastics, unlimited generator and propane use. They erected signs around a blockade with the slogans “Burners of the world, unite!”, “Mother Earth needs our help” and “System change”. Four activists chained themselves to a trailer and locked arms through PVC pipes.

The Pyramid Lake Paiute tribal police department arrived at the scene and told the protesters to disband within 30 seconds or risk arrest. One of the officers then plowed through the blockade with his vehicle, smashing the trailer and protest signs. The activists were still chained to the trailer and narrowly missed getting hit. The officer then pulled out a firearm and aimed it at the activists, threatening to “take all of you out.”

4. More Floods, 70.000 Burners Stranded at the Playa

On September 1, 2023, Burning Man was hit by more heavy flooding. This caused the playa, the dry lake bed where the festival is held, to turn into a muddy quagmire. Many attendees were unable to leave the festival because their vehicles became stuck in the mud. The festival organizers advised attendees to shelter in place and conserve food and water.

The Gate and airport in and out of Black Rock City remain closed, and ingress and egress are halted until further notice. Cell phone service in the area is extremely limited, and the National Weather Service in Reno, Nevada is forecasting more rain for the weekend. The BLM, the federal government agency that oversees the area where Burning Man is held, said that entry will remain closed for the rest of the festival.

The flooding began on Friday night and continued into Saturday. The heaviest rainfall occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, when more than 2 inches of rain fell in some areas. The flooding caused mudslides and blocked roads, making it difficult for people to leave the festival. There have been no reports of injuries or deaths related to the flooding.

5. One Person’s Death Currently Under Investigation

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that one person has died at Burning Man. The death occurred on Saturday, September 2, 2023, during the festival’s annual week-long event in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

The sheriff’s office has not released the identity of the person who died or the cause of death. However, they have said that the death is under investigation.

Prior to this, the last reported death at Burning Man was in 2019, when Shane Billingham, 33, was found unresponsive in his vehicle at his camp. The cause of death was also not released.

If this wasn’t enough, the festival has also been hit with a wave of fake news and rumors on social media.

These rumors have included claims of an Ebola outbreak at the festival and sightings of fire tornadoes in the playa, none of which is true.

Regardless, this is surely one Burning Man to remember.

Burning Man 2023’s Successful Launch Despite Challenges and Delays logo icon

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