LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – More than a half-inch of rain fell at Black Rock Desert on Friday, making a muddy marsh of the 110 miles of sand.
It took a couple of days, but the roads finally cleared enough for about one-third of the festival-goers to head for dryer ground.
Case in point: Heather Elisarraras and her husband Anthony, who made the best of – and braved – the elements all weekend, finally got to drive out early Monday.
“Nothing too bad happened, Elisarraras said. “We came together as a community and really pushed through. We had lots of people out still bringing smiles and music playing. It was really beautiful to see a community come together like that.”
Elisarraras – who spends about half the year in Las Vegas and the other half in California – said she would certainly be back at future Burning Man festivals, and that this year’s rain didn’t ruin her celebration; she and her husband Anthony got married at last year’s event.
The couple said the rain made things at Burning Man progressively worse.
Elisarraras, who was without cell phone service all weekend, gave a succinct narrative: ”So about Friday late afternoon, early evening, we started to get some rain on Playa,” she said.
“At first, it was like really beautiful. Everyone was cheering. Everyone was happy. And then soon bikes were not able to move on Playa,” she added. “It became harder and harder to walk. You were gaining inches as you walked. Still amazing, still made the best of it. Things did not slow down at all really until about Saturday. I think things started to kind of hit realization that we had to slow down and just kind of … I don’t know, start listening to the radio, hoping and praying for some clear skies. But overall I think everyone still had high spirits.”
Organizers closed the festival to vehicles after one death was reported. Officials provided no details of the fatality other than to say it was not weather-related.
The annual gathering in the Black Rock Desert about 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Reno attracts nearly 80,000 artists, musicians, and activists for a mix of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances.
Disruptions are part of the event’s recent history: Organizers had to temporarily close entrances to the festival in 2018 due to dust storms, and the event was twice canceled altogether during the pandemic.
One of the biggest concerns for eventgoers was the lack of toilet options because the trucks that normally arrive to clean out the portable toilets multiple times a day haven’t been able to reach the site since Friday’s rainstorm. Some revelers said trucks had resumed cleaning on Sunday.
To prevent their shoes from getting stuck in the muddy clay, revelers put plastic bags over each of their shoes and then covered each bag with a sock. Others were just barefoot.
When the storm cleared, Elisarraras saw a sign.
“We had a beautiful double rainbow,” she said. “It was the most vivid rainbow I’d ever seen in my life.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.