Burning Man fans share heartbreak as desert venue is flooded by storm: ‘Squishy Mud Man more like’

Burning Man festivalgoers are voicing their distress after the Black Rock City, Nevada, venue was hit with torrential rains during Tropical Storm Hilary this week.

Pictures and videos of the flooded playa have been circulating on social media, with organisers asking attendees to “please be patient”.

“It’s not something we typically see,” Justin Collins, a forecaster with the weather service’s Reno office, told SFGATE.com. “All this rain all at once is pretty unusual in summer. You see it in winter more.”

This year’s festival runs from 27 August to September 4; however, many attendees go to set up camp a week before it begins.

The festival announced on Wednesday (23 August) that its gates would reopen for Work Access Pass holders. “Before you hit the road, read your email carefully. Drive safely!” organisers said.

If Black Rock City stays wet, it could spell disaster for the festival, which revolves around its dry, desert setting.

“Oooof this is concerning. The desert doesn’t absorb. It’s like a pool being drained onto a tile floor,” one person wrote in response to a viral TikTok showing the scale of flooding at the location.

“I tried walking in the rain on the playa once and it just piled up on the bottom of my shoes SO MUCH,” another complained.

Others have chosen to take a more humorous approach to the flooding, sharing photos with sinking ships and shark fins edited into frame.

“Bout to be Squishy Mud Man more like,” another person joked on X/Twitter.

“Who had ‘Burning Man Gets Rained Out’ on their Armageddon Bingo?” asked a third.

According to AccuWeather, Black Rock City is forecasted to experience blazing sunshine and temperatures in the low thirties (Celcius) for the rest of the week.

On Sunday, organisers said that it could take 12-plus hours “for the playa to dry, so please be patient”.

Last year, locals were left furious over the volume of illegal waste dumped in the neighbourhood after the festival.

Tents, food and alcohol bottles have all been spotted around Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border and neighbouring Reno, Nevada, in the days following the 2022 addition of Burning Man, business owners, locals and officials told SFGate.

“What I’ve seen are large construction bags of trash, alcohol bottles, tons of food, tents and large aluminium poles from shade structures,” said a business owner in Truckee, California, to the news outlet.

About 80,000 festivalgoers attend Burning Man, which asks visitors to “leave no trace” of their presence in the Nevada desert. The festival also warns against dumping waste in the dozens of towns nearby – as well as those further away, such as in California.