One Dead, Thousands Stuck in Mud as Rain Douses Burning Man Festival

Sep 5, 2023

A series of weekend rainstorms occurred over the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada. Over 70,000 attendees found themselves trapped in mud. At least one death was reported. This prompted officials to close access to festival grounds as police investigate.

Police have not identified the victim. They have not divulged a cause of death either. The physical conditions of the festival grounds may be slowing the investigation. Many people who had attended the week-long music and art gala found their cars trapped in foot-deep mud. The roads from the desert site could not be driven upon. Only special emergency vehicles could use them.

“You sink into it like quicksand,” one attendee told The Washington Post. "And it’s very hard to get your foot out. Basically it was more slippery than ice.”

Trapped people had to start rationing food and water supplies. And officials raised concerns over sanitation. Trucks normally clean out the site’s portable toilets several times a day. But they haven’t been able to access them since Friday. Still, many attendees remained upbeat.

“We are a little bit dirty and muddy but spirits are high. The party’s still going,” Scott London told The Associated Press on Sunday. He traveled from California for the festival.

Close to an inch of rain fell on the Black Rock Desert between Friday and Sunday. It was five times more than the region’s average for the entire month of September. But there's good fortune coming for those stranded. The desert heat is set to return as the week goes on. This should aid evacuations by foot and bus. They began on Monday.

Photo from Reuters. 

Reflect: How do you think large events or festivals can prepare for unexpected challenges or weather-related issues to ensure the safety and well-being of attendees?

Which of the following ideas is highlighted throughout the story? (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. the popularity of the Burning Man Festival
b. the positive spirit of festival-goers despite challenging conditions
c. the details of the investigation into the reported fatality
d. the effect of the rain on people at the Burning Man Festival
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

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