Hurricane Katrina – What we’re doing, how you can help …

Luna Sea, Biloxi (Photo by Tom Price)
Luna Sea, Biloxi (Photo by Tom Price)

By now you’re all home and unpacked, and coming to terms with life in Reality Camp — and with the enormity of the damage left by Hurricane Katrina.

Although news was sketchy during the event, as noted in this piece by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford, as soon as Burners found out about the hurricane they did what comes naturally — they stepped into motion, organized and helped out which you’ll read about in a article and this Reno Gazette-Journal story. It just made sense — after all, as many have noted New Orleans is a sort of free spirited sister city to Black Rock City.

Biloxi Katrina Disaster (Photo by Tom Price)
Biloxi Katrina Disaster (Photo by Tom Price)

The Regional Information Center, Playa Info, BMIR and Media Mecca all participated in the effort to provide information and support. Media Mecca was turned into the New Orleans Disaster Relief center, where free satellite phones and a laptop were set up so people from the affected area could reach home, receive housing offers, post news updates, and collect materials to help people on and off the playa.

Collection at Center Camp Cafe (Photo by Scott London)

Collection at Center Camp Cafe (Photo by Scott London)

Volunteers from all over the playa and every Burning Man department spent hours sharing information and collecting resources. During the event, cash donations of over $35,000 were collected, and thousands of pounds of food and water were delivered to the Salvation Army for refugees displaced to Reno (at that time we were their single largest contributor).

“But wait,” you might be thinking, “wasn’t I told that food and water wasn’t needed when I tried to donate it during Exodous?” Yes, you were — we didn’t learn until very late during Exodus that they would be needed and accepted. Had we known we could have collected much, much more. As you’ll see mentioned in the RGJ article cited above, as soon as the Project discovered the need for dry goods for refugees in Reno the Exodus crew took in as much as participants wanted to give, reserved enough to feed the crew for the next few weeks and then drove 3 truckloads of food and water donations to the Reno Salvation Army.

Makeshift Supply Store (Photo by Tom Price)
Makeshift Supply Store (Photo by Tom Price)

In addition to the money and food raised, materials and funds were donated directly to a group of people from New Orleans who, along with some circus performers who met in Black Rock City — now calling themselves the Third Line Circus — left the event and went directly to Houston to provide aid and raise the spirits of people displaced by the storm. We’ll provide updates of their progress and efforts as we receive them.

What We’re Doing

Distributing Relief Supplies (Photo by Tom Price)
Distributing Relief Supplies (Photo by Tom Price)

Of the money raised, over $13,000 was placed in containers specifically ear-marked for the Red Cross and has already been donated. In order aid two particularly hard hit parishes we chose OXFAM to receive a $15,000 donation. The remainder is being held temporarily and is earmarked for non-profit groups and on-the-ground agencies delivering immediate aid. We share your concern that resources not be used on overhead, and will keep you informed as this process moves forward about exactly where your donations went.

We are also creating a Katrina Relief announcement list to connect people affected by the disaster with those who wish to help, and to keep people up to date with our latest information. If you provided your email address on the playa for this list, you will be contacted soon.

How You Can Help

Destroyed Buddhist Temple (Photo by Tom Price)
Destroyed Buddhist Temple (Photo by Tom Price)

There are several simultaneous efforts underway to help people displaced by the hurricane. Right now we’re working to get a sense of what people are doing, and how the Project and participants can best help coordinate and facilitate those efforts. If you’d like to assist in any way, please email us at

Feel free to join our Katrina Relief announce list to keep apprised of the latest updates, and to see how you can directly help those in need. To join the list email:

DPW Represent (Photo by Tom Price)
DPW Represent (Photo by Tom Price)

For those that like the connectivity of you have a few options that provide information: There is the New Orleans Burner Tribe which is moderated by the official Burning Man New Orleans Regional Network Contact, Anthony De Cognito. And there is the “New Orleans” tribe (which seems to be moderated by a burner “jennconspiracy”, and includes periodic posts by the regional contact). Lastly, there is a newly created tribe specifically for Burners interested in helping with Katrina, however, neither the moderator of the tribe nor the content of the tribe are known to the Project. Search for “Burning VanGuard” on

Finally, please work with your regional contact to put something together (a Mardi Gras decompression, anyone?), and let us know how we can assist you.

Here’s what we know of right now …

Projects Now in Motion

There are a number of different projects and efforts in which Burning Man participants are engaged in to help the relief efforts from hurricane Katrina. We are only including projects that the Burning Man organization has researched and have an understanding of the purpose and goals. However, like the playa one should use one’s own good judgment when getting involved in a project

Build Biloxi!

A group of Black Rock Rangers and other volunteers are going to Biloxi, Mississippi, to build shelters for emergency workers, in conjunction with World Shelters, FEMA, and OXFAM.)

Third Line Circus

Third Line Circus was born on the playa, and includes members of several departments, participants and circus folks from the UK. They first traveled as a group to Reno and participated in a Red Cross training. The group then divided temporarily to convert vehicles to vegetable oil, stock up on supplies while the others headed directly to Houston to research how and when New Orleans would allow their return. They have recently regrouped in Austin to decide on their next move.

Here is a portion of their mission statement:

“The Second Line is a long-standing, long-dancing New Orleans tradition; best known as the band that follows funerals, somber on the way to the grave, joyous and celebratory on the way back.

Inspired by this fine tradition, Third Line is a rapidly expanding hurricane relief team, with a core comprised of New Orleans residents and entertainers, and a vast network of friends who also want to help. Primarily we are a circus, which will provide entertainment relief (in the form of circus acts, a mobile film theater, puppet shows, and music) and children’s day care (with an educational focus on creating their own children’s circus), although we seek to fulfill other needs as we see fit (e.g. housing, clothing, etc.).”

You can donate via the site, and view their blog.

Hurricane Katrina Relief Film Project

With a bus full of supplies and necessities Estee Blanchar will drive home to Louisiana bringing relief to as many lives as possible.

She hopes to feed, clothe and unite families, and just help in the ongoing rescue mission to restore life to those who have been severely affected by Hurricane Katrina. She will also be making a documentary of her journey to bring to light the conditions of those in need and what is being done to help.

Visit the website for contact info and to make a donation.

Got something you’re working on?

Let us know. We’ll do our best to keep this list current!

About the author: Tom Price

Tom Price

Tom Price is the former Executive Director of Black Rock Solar. Prior to that he was the Environmental Manager for Burning Man during the Green Man theme, and was in the Gulf Coast for six months during the genesis of Burners Without Borders. He's been attending Burning Man since 1997, and he's proud to say that his decade plus streak of breaking down from sun stroke on the playa on day three remains intact.