Burning Man attendees are still struggling to escape Black Rock City as an estimated 70,000 people remain stuck in muddy campgrounds after two days of heavy rain and one reported death.
Attendees of the countercultural music and arts festival were initially asked to “shelter in place” and conserve food and water on Friday, according to notices from organizers. All inbound and outbound traffic has been halted and will remain so until further notice.
The death reported at the festival site is being investigated, local authorities said on Saturday. It is not known exactly what the cause of death was at this time.
DJ and producer Diplo said he hitchhiked from Black Rock City in the back of a van with comedian Chris Rock on Saturday. The musician documented his trip from Black Rock City to Washington DC, where he says he had a gig on Saturday night.
“I legitimately walked on the side of the road for hours with my thumb out because I have a show in Washington tonight and I didn’t want to disappoint you,” he captioned a post on his Instagram. .
Videos posted to his Instagram story show Diplo walking through mud before hitchhiking to Gerlach and Reno to catch a flight to DC.
“I just finished DJing for three hours, after walking for four hours out of the desert and getting on a plane, mud still on my face,” he said in a video posted to his Instagram Story. Saturday night.
NBC News has contacted representatives for Diplo and Chris Rock.
Former United States Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal also said he walked through the mud to get out of Black Rock City on Saturday.
“It was an insanely grueling 6 mile hike at midnight in thick, slippery mud, but I made it out of Burning Man safe and sound,” Katyal wrote on Twitter. “I’ve never been there before and it was fantastic (with brilliant artwork and fabulous music)…except the ending.”
Katyal also posted a few tips to others in Black Rock City trying to escape.
“No one should try this unless they are physically fit and part of a group,” he warned. “It was pretty tough, and it will get even tougher if it rains more. Tell your friends not to do the hike unless you really think they can do it safely. There are some dangerous places where it’s worse than walking on ice.”
Another festival attendee, Kevin Schultz, 22, was due to leave Burning Man on Friday to attend his friend’s wedding in Houston, Texas. (Note: Schultz is the cousin of Liz Kreutz, one of the authors of this article.)
What was supposed to be a few hours on a bus turned into a 20 hour escape out of the desert.
He left before the festival lockdown, when the weather was still clear, and his bus got stuck in the mud as the storm rolled in.
“We ended up being sheltered on the bus, you know, almost indefinitely while we waited for the ground and the area to dry out,” Schultz told NBC News.
As what was thought to be a short downpour of rain turned into a prolonged storm, Schultz and others were forced to spend the night on the bus. There were “no plans” to return to camp or to town, he said.
Going back to Burning Man seemed like a bad idea, Schultz decided, as he considered the lingering issues with sanitation and resource scarcity. So he and six other people decided to take a risk: tie trash bags around their feet and walk into town when they woke up on Saturday morning.
“It’s slippery, the most slippery thing ever, where one moment it’s like…it’s sucking, sucking on your foot and the next moment you’re slipping all over the place,” Schultz said. “So it’s very unpredictable, but we were able to find, for example, walking along the small dry ridges and so on for the majority of the distance.”
The group traveled three kilometers to the paved road, where they were able to hitchhike to the nearby town of Gerlach thanks to the kindness of a passing woman in a farm truck. Schultz missed the wedding but returned home to California, where he says he is warm, safe and able to shower.
On Sunday morning, organizers say the roads are still “too wet and muddy” to officially open, and are urging participants to continue sheltering in place, saving food, water and fuel.
Participants are also advised not to drive into Black Rock City.
Intermittent thunderstorms are expected to affect the region on Sunday, accompanied by possible gusty winds.
Plans to burn the man are still in place on Sunday evening, weather permitting, organizers said.