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Burning Man attendees cope with muddy treks home following weather-related festival fallout

With plastic bags wrapped around their shoes, or missing them altogether, tens of thousands of revelers attending the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert have been trudging through ankle-deep mud in search of relief after downpours flooded the region over the weekend.

The annual counterculture festival in the remote Black Rock Desert, about 100 miles from Reno, is coming to a close as the roughly 70,000 attendees were advised to shelter in place and ration water and food supplies.

Although the site is typically dry in the summer, the festival has faced weather-related difficulties in the past, from dust storms to heatwaves. The festival's entrance was closed after a rare rainstorm Friday made roads impassable. It rained for more than 1/2 an inch, which is roughly two to three months of rain for the area. 

While some left the muddy desert on foot, most were still trapped on Monday morning. 

Attendees, some who have gone for more than a decade, told CBS News they've never experienced a disaster similar to this one.

"We're not allowed out of the playa, the gates are locked," said Christine Lee. "We've never seen anything like this."

Sherilyn Lee, who was taking refuge in her RV, showed CBS News her camp and the surrounding area, with much of it sunken into several inches of mud.

"You can see from the clouds behind me that it's still raining," said Lee. 

Meanwhile, organizers have postponed the festival's main ceremony from Sunday to Monday night. That's the traditional burning of the wooden figure known as "the man."

Officials have confirmed one death after the wave of downpours. The cause is still under investigation.

The massive festival, which began in California in 1986, draws thousands of artists, activists and celebrities every year. 

DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock shared on social media that they walked several miles in the mud before being rescued in a pickup truck. 

Many others also made the muddy trek toward the main road, including first-time so-called "burner" Manny Kess, who decided to leave early.

"After going back and forth for a couple of hours, I'm like, 'Listen, I'm just gonna go,'" he said.

Kess, of New York, said despite the setbacks, spirits remain high as Burning Man comes to a close. 

"People are just trying to say, 'Hey, be careful, conserve. And we will get through this together,'" he said.

As for when attendees will be able to leave, organizers said they were monitoring road conditions. The so-called "exodus" could begin as early as Monday morning.

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