Burning Man-goers are still struggling to flee Black Rock City as some 70,000 are still stranded at the muddy camp site after two days of torrential rain and one reported death.
Participants in the countercultural music and arts festival were initially advised to “seek shelter on the spot” and store food and water, organizers said on Friday. All inbound and outbound traffic has been halted and will remain so until further notice.
The reported death at the festival site will be investigated, local authorities said on Saturday. It is not clear what the cause of death was at this point.
DJ and producer Diplo said he drove out of Black Rock City in the back of a pickup truck with comedian Chris Rock on Saturday. The musician documented his trip from Black Rock City to Washington DC, where he says he had a concert on Saturday night.
“I actually walked the curb for hours with my thumbs out because I have a show in DC tonight and I didn’t want to let you guys down,” he captioned a post on his Instagram.
Videos posted to his Instagram story show Diplo walking through mud before hitchhiking to Gerlach and Reno to fly to DC
“I just DJed for three hours after walking the fuck out of the desert for four hours and catching a flight, still got mud on my face,” he said in a video posted to his Instagram story became Saturday night.
NBC News has reached out to representatives from Diplo and Chris Rock.
Former United States Assistant Attorney General Neal Katyal also said he hiked through mud to get out of Black Rock City on Saturday.
“It was an incredibly grueling 6-mile midnight hike through heavy and slippery mud, but I got out of Burning Man safely,” Katyal continued Twitter. “Never before and it was fantastic (with brilliant art and fabulous music)… right down to the end.”
Katyal also posted some hints to others in Black Rock City trying to escape.
“No one should attempt this unless they are in good shape and part of a group,” he warned. “It was pretty tough and will be even more difficult when it rains harder. Discourage your friends from hiking unless you really think they can do it safely. There are treacherous places that are worse than walking on ice.”
Another festival attendee, 22-year-old Kevin Schultz, was scheduled to leave Burning Man on Friday so he could celebrate his friend’s wedding in Houston, Texas. (Note: Schultz is the cousin of Liz Kreutz, one of the authors of this article.)
What was supposed to be a few hours on the bus turned into a 20 hour desert escape.
He left before the festival closed when the weather was still clear, and his bus ended up getting stuck in the mud when the storm hit.
“We ended up sitting under cover on the bus, so to speak, indefinitely while we waited for the ground and area to dry out,” Schultz told NBC News.
When what seemed like a brief downpour turned into a sustained storm, Schultz and others were forced to spend the night on the bus. There is “no plan” to return to the camp or to the city, he said.
A return to Burning Man seemed like a bad idea, Schultz decided, considering ongoing issues with sanitation and resource shortages. So he and six other people decided to take a risk: they tied bags of garbage around their feet and were walking into town on Saturday morning when they woke up.
“It’s slippery, the slippiest thing ever, where one moment it’s like it’s… it’s sucking, gripping your foot, and the next moment you’re sliding around,” Schultz said. “So it’s very unpredictable, but we were able to walk most of the way along the little dry ridges and stuff like that.”
The group made it two miles to the paved road where, thanks to the kindness of a woman driving by in a truck, they were able to hitch a ride to the nearby town of Gerlach. Schultz missed the wedding but made it home to California, where he says he’s warm, safe, and able to shower.
On Sunday morning, organizers say the roads are still “too wet and muddy” to officially open and urge participants to continue to seek shelter locally, saving food, water and fuel.
Participants are also advised not to drive in Black Rock City.
Intermittent thunderstorms and possible gusty winds are expected to hit the area on Sunday.
Plans to cremate the man remain in place for Sunday night, weather permitting, organizers said.