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Burning Man mess: Sacramento natives detail soggy Burning Man experience

Burning Man mess: Sacramento residents talk about their experiences
Burning Man mess: Sacramento residents talk about their experiences 03:14

The driving ban has been lifted for the over 64,000 people still in the Nevada desert braving an unprecedented Burning Man Festival that left attendees drenched after torrential rainfall this weekend. Up to three months' worth of rain was recorded in the area this weekend.

Two Sacramento natives stepped us through the soggy few days they've experienced. Both are Burning Man regulars, with journalist Ed Fletcher having been to every one of the counterculture arts festivals since the inaugural year.

"Burning Man is always a bit of a challenge, and this year was an interesting and different challenge," Fletcher said. "For me, that's part of the experience, being thrown into a little bit of chaos, and perhaps some discomfort."

Scott Zentner echoes those thoughts, explaining that for those who have attended in years past, you know to prepare for anything.

"This is not a hospitable environment on normal years, so the fact that it's wet this year, it's just a different thing you have to contend with," Zentner said. "I know there are some people who are unprepared, but I've never been in doubt. I brought plenty of water, plenty of food. You come prepared to be here for a few extra days just in case."

"Burning Man" Festival 2023
Tens of thousands of visitors to the desert festival Burning Man were stranded on the site after heavy rainfall. David Crane/picture alliance via Getty Images

It's that preparation that not everyone can relate to. Social media users posted with what limited cell service there was this weekend, complaining of dire conditions, overflowing port-a-potties, and fears of rationing food and water.

"It's always a little discomforting if you're someplace and they tell you that you can't leave, so obviously people walked and drove out through mud," Fletcher said.

Organizers issued a shelter-in-place order through the worst of the storms, telling people to conserve food and water just in case. This was a year of firsts for many at the festival, even the most experienced. Torrential rain also delayed the burning of the man, which culminates the festival on the final day.

"Normally the man burns on Saturday night, so this is the oldest man that there has ever been, and he will burn tonight," Zentner said.

The two Sacramento natives are traveling in different camps, but both agree that a huge part of the festival experience is carefully choosing the group you go with.

"I haven't been concerned at all, I'm camped with a great group of people," Zentner said. "I have enough supplies and I'm okay staying for an extra day, so I don't have to worry about being stuck in line."

Sunny skies and dry weather aside, the next major hurdle for those still at Burning Man is going to be how to navigate the miles of still-muddy roads that thousands of people are going to traverse over the next week.

As of Monday evening, it was taking attendees upwards of five hours just to get out of the Burning Man site. That is only expected to worsen after Monday night's burn. Roads in and around Black Rock Desert have been a muddied mess since Saturday, with organizers asking people not to try and walk out of the site.

People are also being asked to try and delay their departure as long as possible to try and ease congestion in the area. 

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