It’s the kind of lineup that festival goers don’t look forward to, but this week’s mass exodus at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert looked like a scene from the movie “Mad Max.”
The festival that spans more than three decades hosted upwards of 80,000 people who attended this summer’s annual counterculture festival, an event that is taking place for the first time since COVID-19 forced cancellations over the last few years.
The Burning Man’s Twitter account informed “burners” leaving on Tuesday that the “Exodus wait time is over 9 hours,” urging festivalgoers to wait to leave in order to clear out the logjam of vehicles.
Video footage taken by CJ Yu from Los Angeles, CA. shared on social media showed the massive lineup of thousands of vehicles leaving the desert in what Yu says was the “most Mad Max I’ve felt all week.”
“Turn off your vehicle to conserve gas, and be patient. Teams are working to keep the roads safe and get everyone home safely,” the tweet continued.
The thousands of “burners” descended on the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nev., on Aug. 28, with the event wrapping up Monday, with most festivalgoers leaving Tuesday.
It appeared a number of broken-down vehicles requiring assistance were part of the problem, as organizers warned drivers that one of the local fuel stops had run out of gas.
This year’s festival, according to the Reno Gazette, saw some of the worst dust storms in years, with white-out conditions a near-daily occurrence, forcing ticketholders descending on the festival to wait for hours in their vehicles just to get through the gates in a procession that inched along blindly in the storm.
On Saturday, the Burning Man Twitter account warned people that the gates were closed due to whiteout conditions, asking partygoers not to drive. “Vehicles are becoming stranded and lost on the playa. Delay your departure until the weather has cleared,” organizers tweeted.
During the last festival in 2019 prior to COVID, a fatal crash shut down a rural highway leading to the Burning Man festival in Nevada’s desert, snarling traffic for hours and temporarily stranding hundreds of festivalgoers at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Local media reported nearly 800 festivalgoers spent the night at the airport or found local motel rooms with help from local airport and tourism officials, while most boarded buses bound for the celebration 160 kilometres north of Reno.
IM Ivy Mak is a team editor on the Star’s breaking news desk, based in Toronto. Reach her via email: [email protected]