A Burning Man attendee only managed to escape being trapped in the muddy pit surrounding the Nevada festival by making a “Dukes of Hazzard-style” leap in her pal’s vehicle, she told The Post Monday.
Catherine Gacad, 48, of Alameda, CA, was set to enjoy her 13th visit to the alternative festival before torrential rains put a halt to the festivities on Friday, partially flooding the yurt she had brought to sleep in and trapping tens of thousands of attendees inside a giant mud in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where the event takes place.
Like many tired of sheltering in place, Gacad decided to make a break through the mud and escape in a friend’s car on Sunday, only to be met with a small river forming near the exit.
“One of the officials guiding traffic told us that if we wanted to make it across, we would need to back up, rev up the car, close our windows and gun it, Dukes of Hazzard-style” Gacad told the Post, referring to the 1970s TV show which featured the protagonists’ neon-orange Dodge Charger launching off a dirt ramp and jumping over a police car in its title credits.
While Gacad was able to make the daring escape over the weekend, about 73,000 people remain stuck in the desert with dwindling supplies and patience as they wait for conditions to improve. Officials have said by Tuesday the mud will have solidified enough for most people to leave.
Gacad, who attended her first Burning Man in 2002, said this year’s festival was shaping to be one of the best ever as she enjoyed hosting music workshops with her bluegrass group, Root Pile.
The festivities, however, were cut short when torrential rains struck on Friday, with attendees told to hunker down and shelter in place, conserve their food and energy supplies and await further instructions. Most of the events planned for the festival were then cancelled.
“It wasn’t a big deal for many of us who attended the festival before,” Gacad said. “We all have yurts, tents, trailers and RVs, but for those first timers who only came out with blankets like I did on my first year, I was worried about them.”
But even Gacad’s yurt was no match for the rains as flood water entered from underneath, forcing her to pack her belongings on her bed to keep things dry.
During the night of the storm, Gacad said she let out a loud shriek when her yurt started rattling amid the powerful winds brought on by the remnants of Hurricane Hilary.
“I seriously thought I would go flying off into the sky like in the Wizard of Oz,” Gacad said.
Officials warned attendees to stay put as the muddy conditions trapped them in the desert with the entrances and exits locked, as they were not in suitable condition to handle traffic. Gacad said she and most others had prepared for a long stay in the desert and had adequate supplies of food and water.
However, the mud which has swamped the camp ground has proved challenging to walk across, with Gacad noting people’s boots quickly became cemented in it and it became difficult to cover even short distances.
“People were still making the best of it,” Gacad said. “Meals were still being served, music was still playing. It was business as usual, although there was a bit of tension.”
But with the order to stay put extended into Sunday, Gacad said many were growing anxious and wanted to go home, signing up for bus evacuations that day.
She also signed up to leave, but after hearing word on the radio that the escape window might be narrowing, she decided to join a friend who was looking to leave in his car.
Gacad noted that many were fleeing on foot, warning her cars would get stuck in the mud. Despite the warning, she and her friend carried on and managed to get out after making their muddy leap over the river.
More departures are expected today despite the ceremonial burning of the Burning Man effigy scheduled for Monday night, according to festival organizers.
Attendees were warned not to walk out of the desert through various roads, but instead to try and catch rides at a Greeters station which had been set up for them.
Organizers said Monday they had enabled Wifi to many parts of the campsite and their toilet cleaning operation was still working, and the site was receiving assistance from the local fire department and sheriff to keep the area safe and prevent further issues caused by the mud.
The site was rocked by a death on-site over the weekend, which was confirmed by authorities, although further details including the person’s cause of death had not been made available Monday afternoon.
Festival goers were also urged to delay their departures until Tuesday in order to avoid adding to Monday’s traffic.
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