BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. – After a week of sloshing through the mud-soaked deserts of Nevada after torrential monsoon rains left tens of thousands attending the Burning Man festival stranded in the remote outpost, the time has come for "Burners" to make their mass exodus and head home.
On Tuesday, it became time for festivalgoers to say goodbye to the burning art, dancing and wild experiences inside their temporary community and head back to civilization, as muddied vehicles are now able to roll on the previously-flooded roads out of Black Rock City.
Festival organizers said traffic from Black Rock City to Interstate 80 was at about a 5-hour delay early Tuesday, but had improved to 3 hours later in the morning.
"There is an estimated 2-3 hour wait to leave Black Rock City," Burning Man Traffic posted on X. "Everyone should get plenty of rest before starting to travel on the highway. Expect delays and be alert for debris from other vehicles on the highway at higher speeds. Travel Safe."
Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed RVs, campers and other vehicles beginning the long wait to get out of the festival grounds.
Flights can also now depart from an airstrip located at the temporary city of Black Rock City following the week-long desert campout. According to the organizers of the event, flights to Burbank, Oakland, and Reno will begin on Tuesday.
This decision to begin the exodus came after thousands of festival-goers were left stranded due to heavy rain and flash floods, leading to road closures and making the ground muddy and sticky. Radar estimates show as much as an inch of rain fell in short periods as thunderstorms rolled over the usually arid region.
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Over the weekend, all events at the counterculture festival were canceled due to rain damaging dance party structures, art installations, and entertainment areas. Event organizers told the more than 73,000 people attending the festival to hunker down and conserve resources.
The 35th annual event has become a week-long desert campout that emphasizes community, art and self-expression.
The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office confirmed they are investigating how a 32-year-old man died Friday during the rain event. The sheriff’s office says no immediate cause of death was determined after interviewing witnesses and medical responders, but an autopsy toxicology report is still being processed.
While some continued their Burning Man experience, celebrity DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock decided to walk out. Other attendees did the same, wondering how long they might be stuck on the lake bed known as the playa.
"Everybody at first was like, just welcoming the idea of staying in their trailer, in their camp, and just hanging out, and having, I suppose a continuation of their Burning Man time," attendee Griffin Kirsch said. "And after enough time went by, it started to get a little bit … people started to question like, how long are we going to be sheltering in place here? And that’s when we ultimately made the pretty quick decision to exit and walk out."
FOX News Correspondent Claudia Cowan attended the festival and spoke with FOX Weather about the improving conditions. According to Cowan, many festival attendees are attempting to catch international flights to return home. Unlike previous years, where departures occurred over multiple days, this year's attendees are facing a mass exodus as they try to leave the muddy playa.
"Thousands of people would have left on Friday. Thousands would have left on Saturday. Thousands would have left on Sunday," Cowan said.
Despite the rain and muddy mess, Cowan said "there was no panic" when Burners were told to shelter in place. Attendees continued to embrace the "Burner spirit" and be kind to their neighbors at the festival through the weather event.
People have been asked to delay their departures until Tuesday. The "Burner Express" bus service has also started back up again as burners return to society.
As Burners left, organizers asked them to be courteous to the neighboring community. What festival attendees bring in must also be brought out when they leave, including trash.
"There is no garbage collection service in BRC. It is up to each of us to remove all Matter Out of Place (MOOP) from our camps and our city," Burning Man organizers said.