The gray seas finally parted for the 70,000 revelers to leave Burning Man Monday afternoon, though the traffic jam to get out lasted up to eight hours, and law enforcement officials complain that people abandoned their possessions and even vehicles in the desert.
If you work with someone who attended this year’s massively mud-slogged Burning Man, it is unlikely that individual will be in the office today. The biblical muck-storm forced event organizers to not allow people to leave on Friday night, Saturday, or Sunday, though officials were hopeful that people could start leaving at noon on Monday. The opening of the exits finally did come to pass at 2 p.m. Monday, but the traffic jam was hellacious, and as of 9 p.m. Monday night, it was an eight-hour wait.
That wait time was down to about two hours as of Tuesday morning. But law enforcement officials are apparently none too pleased with the conduct of the burners on their way out. Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen told the Chronicle there are “large amounts of property and trash strewn from the Festival into Reno and points beyond.”
“There are numerous vehicles strewn all throughout the playa for several miles,” he added. “Some participants were unwilling to wait or use the beaten path to attempt to leave the desert and have had to abandon their vehicles and personal property wherever their vehicle came to rest."
“As usually happens in what burners refer to as the ‘default world’ people allow their emotions to override their reasonableness and they are lashing out at each other as they leave the playa and attempt to make it to their next destination,” he also told the Chron. “This behavior definitely does not fall within the 10 principles of Burning Man, but that is not the fault of BMP either, but is a societal issue.”
We'll probably learn more about the scope of the rubbish left behind in the days to come. Though in terms of the three-day exit closure and the appalling porta-potty issues, many media outlets like KGO pointed out that burners put a brave face on things. But the unexpected three-day delay certainly caused logistical nightmares for some attendees.
“Some people have had to change flights, one of our camp mates had to pay $1,000 just to change his flight,” attendee Christopher Vasquez told KRON4. “Anybody with RVs had to extend their RV rentals which is a significant amount of money. Just work, with very limited cell service and very limited Wi-Fi it’s been hard to tell employers when we’ll be back to work.”
And there’s also the awful matter of the one person who died at the event this year. This is not the first time someone has died at Burning Man, but now that we’re finally getting some scant details, it seems the lack of vehicle access might have played a role.
The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office told the Chronicle that the victim was 32-year-old Leon Reece, who was reportedly found “on the ground and unresponsive” early Friday night. The event’s medical personnel did perform CPR, but deputies could not access the area until Reece had already been pronounced dead. That said, autopsy and toxicology results are still pending, and the cause of death has not been determined.
Image: @JackStr42679640 via Twitter