Burning Man Festival washed out due to 'surprise rain'

The same thing happened in 2013. Photo courtesy Seth Schrenzel
The same thing happened in 2013. Photo courtesy Seth Schrenzel

Expect hippies to be blaming this on climate change in 3…2…1

Eric Worrall writes: | The Burning Man Festival, a famous Nevada cultural festival, dedicated to sharing, art, self reliance, self expression, burning a big wooden statue, and sky high ticket prices, has reportedly been delayed due to the rain.

According to the report, the festival hopes to open its doors tomorrow.

No doubt this inconvenient delay will give participants an opportunity to practice their self reliance, as they figure out where they will camp for the night, while pondering the possible environmental benefits of not setting fire to that big wooden thing this year.

Or who knows – perhaps the organisers have a plan “B”, which involves splashing a lot of fossil fuel onto the wooden man structure, before striking a match, to ensure all that wet timber lights up.



USA Today reported it as:

Burning Man gate shut as surprise rain soaks desert

An unusual rainstorm in the desert north of Reno, Nev. has shut the main entrance to Burning Man, disappointing thousands of would-be attendees to this performance-art festival and rave.

Monday showers turned the Black Rock Desert into “mucky mud,” Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Lopez said. Law enforcement officials were turning back a long line of cars and camping vans.

“With rain attached to (playa dust), people get stuck everywhere,” Lopez said.

Rain in the Black Rock desert happened in 2010 and 2013. Seasonal monsoon patterns, that’s all. No surprise.

It seems to have been re-opened today:

Burning Man gates open after Monday rain-out

Tickets going for $380 up to $1000 according to the article. That’s some rich hippies.

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Jimmy Haigh.
August 26, 2014 12:05 pm

Whatever floats their boat..

Mike Bromley the Kurd
August 26, 2014 12:07 pm

….or dampens their spirits…..

Bob Shapiro
August 26, 2014 12:11 pm

Not crazy about the new blog format.

August 26, 2014 12:12 pm

self reliance, to be fair those big generators do not turn themselves on nor do all those ‘evil fossil fuel powered ‘ trucks, car etc the use to get there drive themselves.

August 26, 2014 12:13 pm

I suspect that everything will dry out quickly.

August 26, 2014 12:17 pm

Breitbart – 26 Aug 2014
In a triumph for climate change, four hundred pairs of Google Glass were ruined instantly yesterday when the heavens opened above Reno, Nevada, causing the Burning Man festival to be shut down.

It’s called the weather.
Then we have this.

Emergency Management – August 26, 2014
Three straight dry winters have left several Western states with extreme drought conditions. In Nevada, the drought, extreme heat and the potential for the trend to continue has officials looking for answers.

It’s still called the weather.

August 26, 2014 12:17 pm

You have to ~buy~ tickets to Burning Man?

Reply to  TomB
August 27, 2014 3:38 pm

Well heck yeah. Lumber ain’t free. I believe that the organizers were granted an okay for 70,000 “counter culture” folks to attend. Who’s doing the head count, I don’t know. From the participants that, for the most part, arrive through Reno, it looks once again to be a mix of Mad Max and a Rainbow family, weed infested, orgiastic, uh, celebration. Nothing can be sold on site except ice and coffee. Weird huh. Will there be plenty of motor homes as well as artistic vehicles? Judging by the U-Haul and camper rental outlets here in town, yeah. The lots are virtually empty of campers, trucks, motor homes and vans. When they come back next week, somebody is gonna have a steady job of cleaning them all up. Glad it ain’t me.

Dave Yaussy
August 26, 2014 12:21 pm

Didn’t Willis attend this a year or so ago? It was an interesting report, as I recall.

August 26, 2014 12:27 pm

Of some intrest what is the new low/low temp to go along with the rain.
Hard to be a full bore Climate Change beliver with the temp. below record lows.

August 26, 2014 12:31 pm

Now be sure to not say a word about all the “CO2” burned by the cars, trucks and assorted combustion engines used to get the naked boosed up hippie’s to this location out in the desert. Not to mention the enviromental damage done by this collection of kook kanker klouds.

August 26, 2014 12:31 pm

Hey, I survived BM2012. If there is such a creature as a stereotypical BM member, then it was a lot of them that welcomed this old ‘square’ skeptical engineer and my fellow engineer associates. Given the appropriate opportunity I would eagerly go again.

Reply to  John Whitman
August 27, 2014 7:42 am

Have you checked out regional burns? Smaller scale, but still awesome.

Robert Sheaffer
August 26, 2014 12:32 pm

If you watch the documentary movie about Burning Man “Spark: A Burning Man Story,” you will see that there is a huge infrastructure here. People are planning it all year long, and spend months setting it up. So it’s no surprise that there would be some high ticket prices.

Jimmy Haigh.
August 26, 2014 12:35 pm

Surely, for something so “green” and “back to nature”, the weather doesn’t matter? Or – is it only for the money?

Jimmy Haigh.
August 26, 2014 12:38 pm

Hey – they could call it “Drowning Man”!

August 26, 2014 12:39 pm

August 26, 2014 at 12:17 pm
“You have to ~buy~ tickets to Burning Man?”
Yes, and wikipedia has the history of prices. THey look like Weimar hyperinflation.

August 26, 2014 12:41 pm

Next time just leave the gate open and set up a webcam. It would be very entertaining to watch the resulting mud fest and stuck vehicle parade. Great Basin muds are special–it’s where kitty litter comes from.

August 26, 2014 12:41 pm

Nothing “unusual” about an august rain storm in the desert west.

August 26, 2014 12:42 pm

At Burning Man, they have this notion of “giving”; and for every “giving” there must obviously be a “taking”…

August 26, 2014 12:47 pm

Druids used to burn gigantic effigies of Man. Stuffed with people burning alive. No wonder Californian crowd of rich socialist vulgarians is fond of this ceremony.

August 26, 2014 12:59 pm

Burning Man is like Earth Hour, the Prius, alternative energies and climate conferences. It requires lots and lots and lots of fossil fuels in order to happen. And I think I left out a couple of “lots”.
Btw, this is supposed to be our dry time in Northern NSW, especially with an “incipient” El Nino. We’re drenched.

Robert Wykoff
August 26, 2014 1:02 pm

I was working in Empire when Burning man first started. It is funny over the decades I always hear young people say “I have been to the burn 6 times, but I stopped going because it is just not the same anymore”. I just heard that again the other day, and can’t tell you how many times I have heard it over the years. I always chuckle and say, my 6th time was in the 1990s, and the first burning man I went to had 300 people who were shooting 50 caliber tracer rounds all over the place

Frank Kotler
August 26, 2014 1:09 pm

I seem to remember some mud at Woodstock, too. Does anyone remember the smell?

August 26, 2014 1:12 pm

Two days ago I was in Switzerland where it was snowing in the Alps at 2,000 meters and above – in August!

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
August 26, 2014 1:14 pm

Here is Willis Eschenbach’s account of 2012 Burning Man:
Note this:

I had said in my last post that I was going to check out the meteorological conditions on the Black Rock desert in Nevada. Having done so, I can testify that they are quite stunning, but hard on the human frame. The desert is a dry alkaline lake bed most of the year, perfectly flat, and a kind of dirty white. (…)

Alkaline, and now wet. That’s going to be real hard on the attendees, the alkalinity will strip the fats and oils out of their skin, convert it to soap. And the vegans don’t have much fats to spare. But at least numerous hippies will be slightly less unwashed.

August 26, 2014 1:20 pm

This is a great site but very seriously let down by the lack of facts, vast ignorance and prejudice of this post and most of the comments so far. And the other media.. John Whitman knows something about it, good for him. I survived 2007 and it was the single most important event I’ve ever been to. The ignorance is not at Burning Man!

Walter Sobchak
August 26, 2014 1:26 pm

Jimbo: August 26, 2014 at 12:17 pm
I think the Breitbart line was what is known as humor.

August 26, 2014 1:29 pm

August 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm
“This is a great site but very seriously let down by the lack of facts, ”
2007: “The Man was prematurely set on fire around 2:58 am, Tuesday August 28, during full Lunar eclipse. A repeat Burning Man prankster, Paul Addis, was arrested and charged with arson,[37] and the Man was rebuilt for regular Saturday burn. Addis pleaded guilty in May 2008 to one felony count of injury to property, was sentenced to up to four years in Nevada state prison, and was ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution.”
Those hippies sure take their woodpile seriously.
Source: wikipedia

Reply to  DirkH
August 27, 2014 11:24 am

Fire is a serious matter. Even the small fires allowed for fire dancers and camps have to follow safety rules.
Consider this: when an effigy burn is planned, a perimeter is set up to keep people at a safe distance, fire suppression equipment is staged to deal with secondary fires etc, and the decision to go ahead depends on the weather (esp wind conditions). All of this is needed because just setting fire to something that big without precautions puts a lot of people in harms way. Realize that there are people in and around effigies during the event. There’s a whole temporary city surrounding them.

August 26, 2014 1:36 pm

What a hoot.
My son and some of his pals are giong as a rite of passage and to enjoy the high desert air. Not a hippy, just some tech guys trying to get out of town for a long weekend.

August 26, 2014 1:45 pm

Maybe next year there will be a discount dry lake bed in the running. Call it Fire-Mart.

Robert Wykoff
August 26, 2014 2:00 pm

I do find the use of the term survival in this context to be a mockery of the term. I lived in Gerlach for 4 years, and to this day still camp in northern nevada all 12 months of the year, rain, snow, sleet, hail, sun and wind. You want to survive, go camping in the winter for a week or two in a place where anything can go wrong, and you are a multi day walk from the nearest human being or cell signal. People may remember the family that got stuck in the snow last winter, that was about 60 miles as the crow flies south east from the burning man. Or perhaps the Stopa family about 20 years ago with the baby, who wandered around in the snow for 9 days, that was about 80 miles north of the burning man.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
August 26, 2014 2:04 pm

@ Alexander Feht on August 26, 2014 at 12:47 pm:
We keep loosing historical cultural references. To many “Burning Man” sounds like a guy who needs antibiotics and condoms.

August 26, 2014 2:07 pm

How can one doubt our country’s return to greatness with citizens such as these? By the way, exactly who are these people? What do they want?

Bill Jamison
August 26, 2014 2:16 pm

Every year Burning Man has a theme and a few years ago when I attended it was “The Green Man”. Of course there is nothing green about Burning Man. They do fund local solar projects for schools and such but the event is FAR from green. Just the fuel to get 60,000+ people out there leaves a huge carbon footprint in the playa.
I’m disappointed I couldn’t get a ticket this year. After some articles in widely read places like HuffPo it’s very difficult to get tickets now. Crazy weather only makes it more fun!

August 26, 2014 2:16 pm
August 26, 2014 2:28 pm

Well, $1,000 sounds like a lot. But hey, you could upgrade your iMac to the latest model, or upgrade next year and go to BM.
Some digital cameras cost $50,000.
Not that I am much of a traveller. But I try to not criticise things about which I know nothing.
And I don’t see why hippies ought to be poor?

August 26, 2014 2:32 pm

My old eyes would really appreciate a return to an unbolded Helvetica like font for the body. The names are huge and the text is hard to read. Gosh, we stopped writing reports in Courier and Times New Roman years ago because studies showed how hard it was to read. Please. Old eyes need less strain.

James at 48
August 26, 2014 3:02 pm

Surprise? How surprising can rain be, in the SW US, in August? I guess they never heard of the SW Monsoon.

August 26, 2014 3:21 pm

That’s probably Yucca Mountain in the background, you know, the bone-dry nuclear waste depository (proposed), just down the road from Burning Man. After decades of reassurance regarding the low water table one bright scientist quantified the seepage of rainwater through the rock from above and threw a spanner in the works- canisters rusting away in a few thousand years. Glad to see he was probably right.

Reply to  Scute
August 27, 2014 10:07 am

Jimmy Carter strikes again.

August 26, 2014 3:36 pm

I well recall the report by Willis on this event a couple of years back. Made me want to attend, although geography, age and financials make this a near impossibility.
One thing that stuck in my mind was Willis saying the event was climate-alarmist-free. And neither were the attendees hippies. Apparently they all paid their own way to get there and coughed up a substantial attendance fee. Maybe they shared some attributes with hippies but were, at the most, hippie-ish.
They struck me as interesting people, fascinated with art and having a good time . . . something the world needs more of.

August 26, 2014 4:34 pm

More like Flaming Hippy.

August 26, 2014 5:04 pm

No more hippies and anarchists at Burning Man. It is now socially tiered like the rest of the planet….those who pay for everything and those who do their work, and loads of cops to keep everyone in line.
Also, it has rained on Black Rock City several times over the years. But these showers left enough standing water for waves to form!
Also of note, SpeedWeek at Bonneville flats cancelled because of flooded playa…

August 26, 2014 5:31 pm
August 26, 2014 6:17 pm

How do they burn it without releasing CO2?

August 26, 2014 6:37 pm

Wayne Delbeke August 26, 2014 at 2:32 pm
My old eyes would really appreciate a return to an unbolded Helvetica like font for the body. The names are huge and the text is hard to read. Gosh, we stopped writing reports in Courier and Times New Roman years ago because studies showed how hard it was to read. Please. Old eyes need less strain.

Yes. (I’d like the text to be black, not gray, and for it to have serifs, and not be Times New Roman.)

Michael Larkin
August 26, 2014 8:48 pm

Sans serif is better for reading on computer screens. I don’t know what it is about the new font, but I simply find it less readable than before: I find myself not wanting to read whole posts or comments. Strangely, text as it appears in this comment box before being posted is just about perfect. Please, please, can it be changed to match the comment box appearance?

August 26, 2014 8:58 pm

Don’t mind people having parties, gabfests, effigy burnings…
I just find it odd that we never celebrate the critical things that got us here and keep us here. The things we would shriek for if we lacked them for even a day. Among them are fossil fuels. There are no coal festivals, or, if there are, their hipness factor would be “Barry Manilow minus”.
Yet, when you think about it, there ought to be splendid coal festivals, dentistry festivals, washing machine festivals, obstetrics festivals, mass production festivals etc.
Think actual and act actual.

Dave Worley
Reply to  mosomoso
August 26, 2014 9:25 pm

There are several petroleum festivals in South Louisiana and the Houston area. We celebrate the harvest of a different sort of cash crop here. Nature has been good to us in many ways.
When I was a youngster, there was an annual Oil & Gas Expo where service companies showed their latest equipment. You could get right up to (or upon) some very hi tech equipment like centrifugal separators, cut away motors, drilling rigs, sit in helicopters, walk on rig floor. Some of these devices were designed by not so well educated Cajun “engineers” who became very wealthy by finding ways to make their jobs easier.
Kids were allowed at the expo, and all the vendors gave away tons of goodies. We would walk out with bags full of stuff. Of course there were lots of rent-a-babes at the booths for young folks like myself to admire, and older guys to…er…converse with.
The most popular freebie for kids was a plastic easter egg filled with a water based synthetic drilling mud called “silly stuff”. It was mostly water, cool to the touch and felt slimy. It would run between your fingers like thick water, but not stick to your skin. I believe it even made it to the broader toy market later.
Anyway, we celebrate hydrocarbons here. I like to think we are the real counter culture!

Reply to  Dave Worley
August 26, 2014 9:52 pm

Lovely stuff, Dave. Around here on the midcoast of NSW people still love their rodeos, buggy races and monster trucks. (I was at the council meeting which huffily refused to allow our airport to be used for drag racing.)
What you are describing would be a sensation. To the south of me, the inaugural Hunter Coal Festival is due next year. Let’s hope it’s not in any way defensive or apologetic. Time to get loud and proud about locally harvested fuels. Putin, Maduro, Nigeria and the Saudis can get on a queue to sell their products. Might make them a bit saner to know they’re not so special.

Dave Worley
August 26, 2014 9:06 pm

I prefer Arial font. Anyone else use that?

Dave Worley
August 26, 2014 9:39 pm

Can’t stop with the counter culture theme.
I am glad to be part of this counter culture.
I believe Bill Gates is at the cutting edge of this movement. He has not been a proponent of the Climate Change culture. He is in favor of African nations developing industry, which runs counter to the apparent IPCC policy of maintaining a welfare state there “for the benefit of climate”. Gates seeks to help these folks develop medical, educational and energy infrastructures that will raise their standard of living. He agrees this can only be accomplished with an industrial base fueled by cheap energy. if this counter culture succeeds, the world will be a much better place for all.
The alarmists are the conformists of today. We are the revolutionaries!

Dave Worley
August 26, 2014 9:42 pm

I like the reply feature!

August 26, 2014 9:43 pm

One day of rain is not going to stop Burning Man. Mud is probably more acceptable than the usual sand storms. The mud will dry up in less than a day. This is a non story…
This has nothing to do with global warming or climate change – Burning Man is about ART. Check it out.

Joel O’Bryan
August 26, 2014 9:48 pm

Just abbreviate it to BM 20XX. Sort of regular occurence just like a bm.

August 26, 2014 9:53 pm

BTW I don’ t know where Arial font came from, but Helvetica is the original design for easy reading. Times new roman doesn’t bother me though. Most books use serif typefaces…

August 26, 2014 10:07 pm

The people who were rained out of the Burning Man festival can always attend the permanent “Burning Bird” festival at the Bright Source Energy plant at Ivanpah!

bruce ryan
August 27, 2014 6:56 am

not sure why so many are eager to denounce burning man festival goers. seems to me they are just a bunch of fun seekers, with no agenda . I mean how can you seriously dislike someone who likes a good campfire?

August 27, 2014 8:24 am

Fear not, the greatest festival on Earth ( Glastonbury) was another roaring success. Yes it rained, it was hot, it was cold, but did not snow. Fairly typical Glastonbury week.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
August 27, 2014 1:44 pm

And they all lived happily ever after:
“The Worthy Farm cows have been let out of their sheds and back into the fields (pretty much the most exciting thing that ever happens to the herd). Jason Bryant was there to take these great photos for us…”

August 27, 2014 9:14 am

I think many here, including the OP, aren’t quite getting the point of Burning Man. It’s not a hippie festival. If it were a hippie festival would there be multiple $10k-$100k art installations, some that consume lots of power? It’s more like a gathering of futurist punks (according to one writer). Anyway, I think BM is generally misunderstood.

Dave Worley
Reply to  Juice
August 27, 2014 11:01 am

I agree, but it shows how this sort of thing can grow and become a caricature of itself.
You can’t go home again.

August 27, 2014 9:24 am

Oh, and the only reason they banned motor vehicles on the playa during the festival is because in the 90s people were getting run over. A couple of people were killed, IIRC.

August 27, 2014 10:08 am

Next year could be even better with a (mandated) ethanol tank car load as the flame source.

Reply to  Resourceguy
August 27, 2014 10:57 am

What a waste…all that corn converted to non-drinkable alcohol…it’s criminal, I tell you.

August 27, 2014 11:10 am

Ok, if you want the *real* Black Rock Playa experience, drive out there and camp in the middle under either a full moon, or the new moon – when you are the only person(s) out there. Full moon: the brightest moonlit landscape possible. New moon: The best terrestrial stargazing you will find. And the quietude is deafening.
A fun game (not for the faint of heart): Set up your lawn chairs in the pickup bed, bungee the steering wheel in a gentle turn position, let the engine idle in 1st gear, and sit in in the back drinking your beverage of choice while the pickup makes very large slow circles in the dust. (If you bungle it, don’t count on cellphone service or emergency medical help.)

Jake J
August 27, 2014 11:48 am

They’re not hippies. Hippies haven’t existed for 40 years now. Burning Man has always been a contrived event for yuppies who were too young for Woodstock, or who missed it because they stayed home and studied.
And it’s not a “monsoon” that rained ’em out. The northern edge of the North American monsoon is waaaaaaaay south of there. Hundreds of miles. It was just plain ol’ rain on the plain.

August 27, 2014 12:13 pm

If it rains enough to “activate” the playa, it would be a disaster for the event. This ain’t “mud” like you see in the old west in films, where it is an inconvenience and sticks on your boots. It quickly becomes a slurry which is like spreading axle grease on concrete, then sprinkling dust on top to disguise it. I’ve unwittingly driven onto the playa in late springtime, when it looked perfectly dry, but just a half inch underneath the dry white crust it was greenish grease. I was very lucky to get back onto terra firma, as I only got a few yards away from the dry edge before realizing my tires were spinning with the slightest touch of the throttle pedal. There have been cases of multiple tow trucks getting stuck trying to extricate a vehicle. if someone barges out there far enough in the wet season, they simply leave the vehicle there until the playa dries out. In early summer volunteers (usually nice old ladies from Gerlach) sit under sun canopies near the main entrances and advise people that the playa is still too treacherous to drive on, even though it looks fine.

August 27, 2014 12:49 pm

Is the Burning Man really a Flaming Hippy?
Up to you.
There are two kinds of Gen Xers: those who unconsciously accepted indoctrination from the Boomers and never revisited the process, and those who realized they had been misled by the rediculous, ubiquitous Boomer paradigms, and who have proceeded to re-examine everything they were told by the Baby Boomers.
That would be the GenX Fail Files – easy and you get to go to festivals, and GenX A Listers. A lot of labor with no appreciation, but worth it in every way.

Jake J
August 27, 2014 4:07 pm

@brians356, watch me be wrong, but I think they’d need a lot more rain to achieve the goal you’re talking about. It’d be pretty funny, though.

Reply to  Jake J
August 27, 2014 4:21 pm

Yeah, I wasn’t referring to the little squall that dampened them on Monday, just pointing out that a serious thundershower, either on the playa itself, or over one of the adjacent ranges, could really bollix up the works out there. What I described is how it is at the end of a normal winter. Many do not realize that a significant stream, the Quinn River, terminates in the playa, and other smaller seasonal streams as well. But a sudden summer downpour in one of the adjacent ranges could loose a flash flood out onto the playa.

Reply to  Jake J
August 27, 2014 4:32 pm

PS There’s a reason late August through September was chosen for Burning Man, as well as the Reno Air Races and the Reno Balloon Races – It’s not only pleasantly warm but also the time of year least likely to feature stormy, wet weather.

Elizabeth Westphal
September 2, 2014 3:48 pm

I got to Burning Man the day after “Monsoon Monday”. I never heard anyone blame it on climate change, It’s a known thing that it can rain at this time of year at this location, it was just an impressive storm that dumped a lot of water. They had lightning over the playa, actually, and standing water. BMIR (the local low wattage radio station that operates during the event) had a lightning strike on their equipment. I’m told they were back on the air pretty quickly. But lots of people who had big generators for their camps were scrambling to take down the generator & disconnect everything so that a lightning strike in the camp didn’t fry RVs, other vehicles plugged into the generator, or the generator itself. I talked to one person who is quite knowledgeable who was impressed with this as a fairly significant storm. I’m also told by reliable sources the mud was as brian356 mentioned — vehicles blogging down with wheels spinning. Organizers quickly stopped all vehicular movement but I suspect a few folks had to be winched out of the mud.
Burning Man is not generally an eco-warrior kind of place from what I could tell. People are there for art, music, community, partying, lots of reasons, but relatively few eco-warriors if any (I didn’t meet one). They all know the event is generating lots of CO2 and they don’t care. The age range is all over the map. The oldest folks I met would be of the “hippie” generation but don’t come across as overaged hippies. There are families who bring their children and do the event in family friendly ways. Most people seemed responsible enough, they brought food, water (really key in this environment) and shelter for themselves. The campsite is amazingly clean of random trash (called moop).
Gifting is purely voluntary. People give things away. It’s not taxation by another name. I think you could show up with everything you needed and camp and no one would complain unless you were camping with a group that had agreed to do something and you weren’t contributing to the process. The idea works well enough actually. People aren’t expecting to be fed, watered, or sheltered. The gifting is of fun things or experiences. For example, I camped with people who brought things to do, ie, the group had a zip line and gave rides on it. The whole gift thing doesn’t come across as communistic
I’d like to go back to the area at another time & learn more about the climate & geology, as what little I have learned so far was fascinating. I’d also like to go to the event again.

September 2, 2014 4:04 pm

For those who are not aware, The Black Rock Playa was where the current land speed record of 760+ mph was set in 1997 by Andy Green in a turbofan powered vehicle, which also became the first land vehicle to exceed the speed of sound.
There are also a few large annual amateur rocketry meets there, where special FAA permits are granted for rocket flights and record attempts to altitudes well over 60 miles (a flight in 2004 reached 72 miles.)

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