Thousands told to shelter in place at Burning Man fest in Nevada with access closed due to flooding


RENO, Nev. (AP) — Thousands of Burning Man attendees trudged in sloppy mud on Saturday — many barefoot or wearing plastic bags on their feet — as flooding from storms swept through the Nevada desert, forcing organizers to close vehicular access to the counterculture festival. Revelers were urged to shelter in place and conserve food, water and other supplies.

Vehicular gates will be closed for the remainder of the event, which began on Aug. 27 and was scheduled to end on Monday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the Black Rock Desert where the festival is being held.

More than one-half inch of rain is believed to have fallen on Friday at the festival site, located about 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Reno, the National Weather Service in Reno said. At least another quarter of an inch of rain is expected Sunday.

The Reno Gazette Journal reported that organizers started rationing ice sales and that all vehicle traffic at the sprawling festival grounds had been stopped, leaving portable toilets unable to be serviced.

Officials haven’t yet said when the entrance is expected to be opened again, and it wasn’t immediately known when celebrants could leave the grounds.

The announcements came just before the culminating moment for the annual event — when a large wooden effigy was to be burned Saturday night.

Messages left Saturday afternoon by The Associated Press for both the Bureau of Land Management and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, the agencies that closed the entrance, weren’t immediately returned.

Many people played beer pong, danced and splashed in standing water, the Gazette Journal said. Mike Jed, a festivalgoer, and fellow campers made a bucket toilet so people didn’t have to trudge as often through the mud to reach the portable toilets.

“If it really turns into a disaster, well, no one is going to have sympathy for us,” Jed said. “I mean, it’s Burning Man.”

___ This story has been corrected to say that the amount of rain Friday at the festival was believed to be more than one-half inch, not half a foot, and that another quarter of an inch of rain, not another quarter of a foot, was expected on Sunday.

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