On Saturday, the Pershing County Sheriff's Office in Nevada announced that an investigation had been launched into a death that occurred at the notorious Burning Man Festival.1
It's estimated that 70K people attended the event in the Black Rock Desert before torrential downpours turned the usually dry and dusty landscape into a mud pit. Organizers issued a shelter-in-place order, however, some attendees attempted to drive or walk to the nearest paved highway 5 miles (8 km) away.2
With the shelter-in-place order, attendees were asked to conserve food, water, and fuel until a safe route to leave had been established. Portable cell phone towers were brought in to provide communication for attendees stuck at flooded or muddied campsites.3
In a post on Instagram, record producer DJ Diplo announced that he and comedian Chris Rock trekked 6 miles (9 km) through the desert and then hitched a ride to Reno, 100 miles (160 km) away.4
The annual nine-day festival was scheduled to conclude on Labor Day with the burning of a sculpture called the main Temple of the Heart being initially canceled. However, on Monday, the event organizers announced that the sculpture burning would proceed.5
Revelers in attendance seem to have taken the dangerous turn of events in stride. Star Heartsong, who traveled from Texas to participate said, "Burning Man is an all-weather state of mind...when it's time to leave, we'll leave."6
Narrative A, as provided by Quartz. The Burning Man Festival is a free-spirited event frequented by artists, self-expressionists, and the California elite. While the event is usually plagued by extreme heat and dust storms this time the haunting hazard was rain. As climate change alters Nevada's landscape and environment by increasing rainfall and the frequency of rainstorms, the event's organizers will need to increase their planning and preparation for new kinds of extreme weather events to keep their devoted followers safe and coming back year after year.
Narrative B, as provided by CBS. The community attending Burning Man is made up of resilient and self-reliant people. When plans change, as necessary with the unexpected rainfall, the Burning Man attendees adapted and were well equipped for survival. The organizers have run scenarios and drills that allowed them to best prepare attendees and manage the incident after it occurred as evident in their ability to provide transportation for those who made it to the main gate. The loss of life was tragic this year, but preparation and planning kept thousands of people safe.