Black Rock City got slammed a couple of more times today, and we probably haven’t seen the end of the fierce weather.
A furious and sudden afternoon rain and hailstorm turned the city into a muddy swamp. Power went out, and hail popped the window of a work truck. The frozen balls started out about a quarter-inch in size, and then got larger.
In a little more than 15 minutes, roads that had been drying out nicely from an early morning storm became lakes of standing water again. Workers took shelter where they could find it to ride out the latest battering.
And then … sunshine. And whoops and hollers. And astonished looks all around. We made it through again, but holy crap that was amazing.
And oh wow wouldn’t a soccer game in the mud be awesome!
The mood was light, but the prospects were serious. Thunderstorms were reportedly lined up for 20 miles, but there’s really no way to predict their path. The skies can be blue one minute, then dark with a storm cell another. A timely pro tip: Never leave your camp without securing all your gear: You can sometimes see a big storm coming, but smaller squalls can pop up quickly, and your chair or table can become a dangerous flying object.
“I think there is a very very real possibility of crazy weather this year,” said Marian Goodell, who, as one of the co-founders of Burning Man, ought to know. She remembers fierce winds blowing down shade structures in 2000, and it was so cold that she remembers hunkering down near the silver trailer in Media Mecca, shivering in the sun.
So. What’s the message here?
Things can get seriously weird in the Black Rock Desert, and while seeing the cool pictures of fabulous clouds and rainbows is great, the larger point is to be ready for the worst. One of the things that binds participants together is the sense that you’ve prevailed over the elements, but to do that you have to be ready. Here are some handy reminders from the organization:
check out this real-time useful shizzle: http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/live_weather.html#.U-l-J8ZZwjI
and the survival guide page:
http://survival.burningman.com/your-survival-in-brc/the-elements/ http://galleries.burningman.com/pages/view.php?ref=33703 http://galleries.burningman.com/pages/view.php?ref=29473 http://galleries.burningman.com/pages/view.php?ref=29385
Yes, all this wild weather has a certain element of fun and wonder to it. Weldboy told one garbage-bag-wearing refugee, “You look so homeless!” And Roxy was saying that we were having “fox wedding weather,” when there are storms and rainbows intermittently.
A giant double rainbow appeared around sunrise. “I heard it,” Franny Penny said. Come again? “I heard it!,” she said. “I heard people oooo-ing and ahhhh-ing, and I went outside and saw it.”
Storm cells had moved over the city in the early morning hours, with heavy slashing rain and thick bolts of lightning around 4:30 am. By the time the sun was coming up, the intensity of the storm had lessened, and two gigantic rainbows formed over the playa. Everything seems outsized at Burning Man this year, from the Man himself to the rain to the wind to even the rainbows.
There didn’t immediately appear to be any physical damage, unlike the other morning when fierce winds near the BLM conclave near Point One took a modular office trailer airborne and flipped it upside down. The wind also slammed a smaller jail unit into the corner of another modular office, taking out a power box with it.
“That’s why I tell the artists to make sure their installations can withstand 100-mph winds,” Joe the Builder said at the time. “Things happen out here.”
This morning, though, we were mostly just wet all over. The DPW daily meeting was initially moved from the Depot to the Commissary, because the roads were shut down, but then it was canceled altogether when more showers hit. Folks who didn’t get word showed up at the big tent anyway, and Commissary folks helped them take off their “playa boots” at the entrance. (When you walk in wet playa, thick layers of gunk build up on your shoes. Pro tip: Put plastic trash bags on your feet to beat the playa buildup.) At this point the rain seemed more of an annoyance than anything, and Cowboy Carl said, “I always thought women with muddy feet were sexy.”
Most of the crews are still confident that despite the delays and setbacks, they still will be able to get the city ready in time for your arrival.
But there is an undercurrent of danger, too. As Trailer Park Romeo said, “Mother Nature is going to do what she wants to do.”
So please, please please: be ready. Be ready to be self-sufficient. Be ready to shelter in place. Bring food and water and shelter, even a poop bucket. It hasn’t been cold for a number of years, but that doesn’t mean that this won’t be the year it gets chilly. Or worse. And if we get some rough weather, you can tune to BMIR radio for information and guidance.
The principle of radical self-reliance has never seemed more timely.
As Marian put it: “It’s not your mother’s Burning Man. Your mother isn’t here to take care of you, so take care of yourself and your neighbors. … Don’t get caught unaware … like it’s your first rodeo … be prepared.”
Here are some more pictures from the day: