Hurry Up and Wait

Chaos tells the crowd at the morning meeting that operations will be delayed today

There’s nothing like a little weather to spice things up early in the build.

The playa was closed Monday morning – no traffic in or out – until at least 11 am, as crews waited to see if the sun would burn off the puddles of water left on the playa after heavy thunderstorms rolled through the area Sunday night.

There were a handful of people – at least a couple dozen – stranded overnight at the event site, but they had water and power and places to sleep, so there was no immediate concern that they were in trouble.

The road between Empire and Gerlach also was closed briefly Sunday night, so people who were just arriving to work made it this close to town but then had to hunker down and wait for an all-clear.

In at least some ways, the heavy rain could be seen as a good thing. As Chaos said at the morning meeting, the water would tamp down the dust that all the vehicular traffic has kicked up over the past few days. Cobra Commander summarized his remarks thusly: “The rain was bad but also good because the playa will be better!”

Cobra Commander told crews about the plan for the day

And of course it also meant that everybody got the morning off. The people on Just George’s crew pounded stakes on Fence Day, and they followed that up with another long day of pounding on Gate Road. They were scheduled for even more pounding today as they put in stakes at the city’s intersections, but they were told to stand down, at least temporarily. “This break might be ok,” Just George said.

Perhaps the rain’s most prominent casualty was the early end to the big Gerlach barbecue in town on Sunday afternoon. What began as a hot and hazy summer day turned wet and wild with gusty winds, driving rain and enough lightning to get oohs and ahhs from a veteran Burner crowd.

You could see strike after snake-y strike of lightning hit the hills outside of town, and the rain was washing the dust off all the work trucks. Of course, there were some who viewed the cessation of festivities as a good thing; everyone had to clear out relatively early.

Most people left the cute little park underneath the town’s water tower and headed to the Black Rock Saloon, where Miss Roach and Sailor and crew had made up a batch of watermelon margaritas, which were not terrible at all.

Rain pummeled Gerlach in the early evening

The Housing and Power crews were not having nearly as much fun. Water gathered in the trailer parks, and power was shut off until crews could make sure all the connections were safely lifted out of the water and dried off. And Shiloh and Breanne of the Gate crew were out at the 12-mile entrance all night and morning, shooing people away from the site.

(Do we have time for a personal anecdote? Ok … The power outage and general upset did not affect us greatly. Through internet magic and the power of mobile phones, and thanks to a stronger cell signal in town these days, we repaired to our trailer to be stunned and amazed by the latest installment of the Game of Thrones. SO MUCH DRAGON! … end personal anecdote.)

Today we’ll lay low with the rest of the crews until we learn whether we’ll be allowed out to the playa. The Reno office of the National Weather Service was saying that more afternoon thunderstorms are possible for the next three days. It was cool and beautifully clear in Gerlach on Monday morning, but the weather service said, “The potential for stronger storms producing wind gusts above 50 mph, hail greater than ¾ inch diameter and larger areas of heavy rainfall increases Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Stand by for news.

Here are a few more pics:

The Fluffer crew strategized after the morning meeting


There was plenty to talk about after the morning meeting


Gate folks put up cones as the rain intensified


Tiffany created an Etch-a-Sketch to summarize the picnic
At least one person at the picnic was ready for the rain


The party moved to the Black Rock Saloon when the rain hit


The line for burgers, sausages and chicken stretched past the Burning Man offices on Main Street




About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

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