Burning Man exodus: Hours-long traffic jam stalls festival-goers finally able to leave

BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. − Thousands of Burning Man festival-goers were stuck in an hours-long line of traffic as they tried to leave the event grounds Tuesday morning, after a weekend of rain stranded people for days in foot-deep mud. 

Traffic updates shared to Burning Man's X account, the platform formerly known as Twitter, said wait times to exit are three hours as of 8 am, local time. Earlier updates indicate traffic is improving as officials urged people during the holiday weekend to wait until Tuesday to leave.

The lengthy delays are normal at Burning Man, and are known by attendees as Exodus. About 64,000 people were on site as of Monday midday, according to organizers.

The event typically winds down Labor Day each year, but heavy rains in the Black Rock Desert over the weekend forced organizers to temporarily ban, driving and limit who could leave.

About 73,000 people attended the annual festival, officials said. The burning of the sculpture of The Man took place on Monday, later than usual, due to rain that dampened the desert floor. A smaller but enthusiastic crowd remained as the effigy went up in flames. The burning of the Temple of the Heart, the final piece of the event, is set for Tuesday evening.

Attendees were told to conserve water, fuel and water on Friday as they sheltered in place during the heavy rains that made leaving nearly impossible.

In this image from video provided by Rebecca Barger, festival goers are helped off a truck from the Burning Man festival site in Black Rock, Nev., on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023.

Burners leave the city for 'default world'

Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. the city largely remained quiet. A few attendees were packing up their camps or trying to haul stuck vehicles from the muck. The techno music that pumped over the city more or less continually for the past week had been turned down, and many people had reverted to their normal clothes suitable for the "default world." 

Burning Man officials on Monday reminded attendees that their drive home would likely take them through the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe reservation. "Drive safely, obey traffic laws, be courteous, patient, dress appropriately if you leave your vehicle— please be respectful of the land and people you encounter," they said on X.

RV catches fire during mass exit

An RV in line to leave the event caught fire early Tuesday as the driving ban lift prompted many to leave. Witnesses told the Reno Gazette Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, everyone appeared to get out of the vehicle safely before it became engulfed in flames.

Workers used a forklift to move the RV out of the way to keep traffic moving.

A line of RVs, campers and other vehicles drive out of Burning Man on Labor Day, several hours before the exit gates formally opened for departures.

Officials released name of man who died at festival

The Pershing County Sheriff's Office identified Leon Reece, 32, as the man who died at the festival on Sept. 1. His cause of death is pending. An autopsy will be performed by the Washoe County Medical Examiner.

Pershing County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Nathan Carmichael said the death didn't appear to be weather-related.

One man died of natural causes at last year's Burning Man.

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