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Burning Man 2023: Hilary rains cause chaos on the playa, delays build

Burning Man’s Black Rock City, pictured in 2015, looks much wetter Monday. | Source: Scott London/Courtesy Burning Man

Rain put a damper on the Burning Man build Monday, forcing the festival to close its gates until at least Tuesday at noon, according to the Burning Man Project’s official forecast notification sent out to camp leaders at 6 a.m. Monday.

Reports and pictures of waterlogged playa have flooded social media after the heavens opened overnight, with one Reddit post telling Burners to “pack your water wings.”

Pack your water wings!
by u/NocturnalNess in BurningMan

The rains from Tropical Storm Hilary may throw a wrench into the plans of many camps that are currently traveling to Black Rock City for build week.

“Large amounts of the playa remain either covered in standing water or damp & impassable, but strong winds are helping to disperse & dry up the standing water,” read a Burning Man traffic update as of 3:47 p.m. Monday.

READ MORE: Burning Man 2023: Why People Are Offloading Their Tickets Way Below Cost

“Hilary made landfall and continues to move northward into California and Nevada,” said the Burning Man Project’s official forecast announcement. “While the main storm track has shifted slightly eastward, there is still plenty of moisture to go around. Most of the rain should fall between midnight and 9 a.m. Monday.”

Current conditions 🦐
by u/mastersmash56 in BurningMan

John Marx, co-founder of the Museum of No Spectators art project, has delayed his build by two days given the current weather conditions. Instead, he said he will stay in Reno for two extra nights to wait out the rain.

“Dust, wind, heat are usually the difficult things,” Marx said. “But the rain is good, and it keeps the dust down.”

While theme camp and art project builds are halted, the main spectacles, including the Man—the effigy to be burned toward the end of festivities on Sept. 2—and the foundation of the Temple, a massive central structure where people are encouraged to gather and reflect, are already laid, according to longtime Burner Joel Briggs.

Attending Burning Man is an evolving balance of preparation and adaptability, according to veteran Burners like Marx and Briggs. The sodden weather conditions and last-minute delays are all part of the process and underline the importance of the “immediacy” ethos, one of the 10 principles outlined on the Burning Man website.

“They want to keep you on your toes and a little off-center,” Marx said. “They actually kind of love it when things get a little wet or dusty because it keeps you in the moment. They want people to be a little uncomfortable and for it to be a bit hard because then you put in the effort and you’re more human. That’s what creates community and kindness.”