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Some Burning Man attendees speak after being stranded by heavy rains

Instead of enjoying the grand finale of Burning Man Saturday, thousands of attendees were stranded in mud and surrounded by standing water. 

“It’s pretty much, everything is shut down and we’re conserving food and water,” said Suzanne Ford, the executive director of SF pride and a Novato resident. “If we don’t have some more coffee in the next three days, there’s going to be a problem.”

Ford’s plans to return to Novato Saturday were derailed after the Bureau of Land Management and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office closed the entrance to Burning Man for the rest of the event. 

It’s supposed to wrap up Monday, but more rain is expected in the next few days. That may delay people’s trips back home even longer. 

“We’re on a lakebed out in the desert,” said Ford. “All of the rain, it’s clay. You can’t walk through it. It just sticks. It’s insane how debilitating the mud is.”

NBC Bay Area photojournalist Josh Keppel has been going to Burning Man for over 20 years. He helps run Inflation Station, a bike repair shop. 

“Normally Burning Man is a lot of biking, and there’s none of that happening,” Keppel said. “This stuff just sticks to everything, so everyone’s walking around. We’re calling it, ‘Walking Man.’ “

The ceremonial burning of art that usually happens in the final nights of the festival has been postponed. Saturday would have been the grand finale: the burning of the man, where an 8 foot wooden sculpture is set on fire. 

“I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get to see it,” said Ford. “But it’s about more than that. It’s about the people, about the tests you go through. How everyone’s generosity comes through, especially in bad circumstances.”

As of Saturday night, only emergency vehicles are being allowed to drive into the event space, according to organizers. 

Event organizers also sent a statement to NBC Bay Area Saturday which reads, in part: “We are engaged full-time on all aspects of safety and looking ahead to our Exodus as our next priority. We will be dropping mobile cell trailers in strategic positions Saturday night September 2, and opening up the internet for 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock plazas and Center Camp sometime Saturday evening. We are also deploying buses to Gerlach to take people to Reno who might walk off the playa.”

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office also announced Saturday that it was investigating a death which had happened during the rains. They wrote in a statement: “The family has been notified and the death is under investigation. As this death is still under investigation, there is no further information available at this time.”

Source: NBC Bay Area

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