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'Exodus' begins: Burning Man attendees start the long, muddy trip home

Burning Man attendees were able to leave on a previously closed road Monday after being trapped in the desert.
'Exodus' begins: Burning Man attendees start the long, muddy trip home
Posted at 5:53 PM, Sep 04, 2023

“Exodus operations have begun” at Burning Man.

That’s how the festival’s official website announced tens of thousands of attendees had begun leaving the remote desert campsite after days of being trapped and stranded there by a sprawling muddy mess.

Event organizers officially lifted the makeshift city's driving ban Monday afternoon once its wet and muddy roads began drying out, but they recommended some of the 64,000 attendees still there delay departing until Tuesday to reduce road congestion.

Some attendees — many of whom refer to themselves as "burners" — quickly packed up their cars upon hearing the news, while others decided to stay for the festival's two ceremonial fires rescheduled for Monday and Tuesday nights. This is when the festival's large wooden man centerpiece and its wood temple structure are set on fire, signaling the end of Burning Man.

SEE MORE: 73,000 at Burning Man told to shelter, conserve food amid muddy mayhem

The annual counterculture festival began Aug. 27 in the temporary city of Black Rock City. The town is erected for one week each year on a desert lake bed in northern Nevada and is known for its extremely harsh environment, complete with high temperatures, no natural shade and almost no humidity.

This year, however, visitors dealt with a much different type of harsh environment when torrential downpours began Friday, bringing the desert more than two months of rain in a 24-hour span. 

Storms continued throughout the weekend, transforming the sandy venue into a land of deep puddles and sloppy mud. This forced organizers to close the undrivable roads in and out of the city and impose shelter-in-place orders, as they warned the more than 73,000 stranded burners to conserve supplies.

Some still tried driving through the thick slop, but most vehicles became stuck.

Others tried to walk the five-mile route to the paved road, including DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock, but organizers asked burners not to do this when they announced roads were opening Monday.

At least one death was reported over the weekend, but organizers said it wasn't weather-related.

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