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Heavy rain began falling Sept. 1 in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The rain caused flooding at Burning Man, a counterculture festival that draws thousands of people to a makeshift city.
The flooding temporarily stranded thousands of Burning Man attendees, who were told to shelter in place and conserve their supplies.
We consulted federal websites and found no evidence the flooding at Burning Man was declared a national emergency. By early afternoon Sept. 4, the road to exit the event had been reopened.
Heavy rains in Nevada temporarily stranded thousands of people and put a damper on this year’s Burning Man festival, but the situation didn’t trigger a federal emergency response.
The event is a popular counterculture celebration that has attracted thousands of people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for more than 30 years.
"So y’all have probably heard that Burning Man was declared a national emergency, but there’s some pretty crazy stuff coming out," said a woman in a Sept. 3 Instagram post. "It was announced earlier that Burning Man was a national emergency because it was flooded, and so they sent in FEMA," she said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She also said people were temporarily prevented from leaving the festival.
This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) The video was originally posted on TikTok Sept. 3 and has since received more than 194,000 views.
(Screenshot from Instagram.)
Heavy rainfall that began Sept. 1 flooded roads and created ankle-deep mud that prompted event organizers to stop traffic into or out of Black Rock City, the temporary city constructed for Burning Man.
PolitiFact consulted FEMA’s list of declared emergencies, White House announcements and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ list of current emergencies, and we found no evidence that the flooding at Burning Man was declared a national emergency or that FEMA responded.
Festival organizers halted travel into and out of the makeshift city starting Sept. 1 and asked Burning Man attendees to "conserve food, water, and fuel, and shelter in a warm, safe place," in posts on X, formerly Twitter.
The White House said Sept. 3 that President Joe Biden had been briefed on Burning Man and that administration officials were "monitoring the situation and are in touch with state and local officials," CBS News reported. We contacted the White House, but did not receive an update.
By early afternoon Sept. 4, the ban on exiting the Burning Man site expired, according to the event website. Some people waited in traffic for hours when leaving Sept. 5, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported. Organizers did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment.
On Aug. 20, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo declared a state of emergency because severe weather related to Hurricane Hilary was predicted statewide. Lombardo encouraged people in Nevada to prepare for flooding and washouts and said FEMA had deployed staff to support the state’s response.
Forecasters predicted that as Hurricane Hilary dissipated it would drop significant rain on parts of Southern California and southern Nevada through the morning of Aug. 22.
Burning Man is held in northwestern Nevada; the rain and flooding concerns began Sept. 1. Lombardo’s office did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment about the Burning Man flooding.
An Instagram video claimed "Burning Man was a national emergency because it was flooded."
Heavy rain caused flooding at Burning Man, triggering road closures and temporarily stranding thousands of attendees. But by early afternoon Sept. 4, people were able to exit the festival site.
We found no evidence the flooding triggered a national emergency declaration. We rate this claim False.
Instagram post, Sept. 3, 2023
TikTok post, Sept. 3, 2023
The Reno Gazette Journal, Burning Man 2023: Cell towers coming; no estimate of when vehicles can resume travel, Sept. 3, 2023
The Reno Gazette Journal, Burning Man: Drugs suspected in man's death at Nevada festival, medical examiner says, Sept. 5, 2023
Newsweek, Is FEMA at Burning Man? Virus Outbreak Conspiracy Theory Spreads Online, Sept. 4, 2023
The Associated Press, Burning Man flooding strands tens of thousands at Nevada site; authorities are investigating 1 death, Sept. 3, 2023
BBC, Thousands queue for hours to leave Burning Man festival, Sept. 5, 2023
CBS News, Burning Man "exodus operations" begin as driving ban is lifted, organizers say, Sept. 4, 2023
The Associated Press, Burning Man flooding triggers false claims of Ebola outbreak, ‘national emergency,’ Sept. 5, 2023
Burning Man Traffic post on X, Sept. 2, 2023
Burning Man Traffic post on X, Sept. 2, 2023
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Current emergencies, accessed Sept. 5, 2023
FEMA, Declared Disasters, accessed Sept. 5, 2023
The White House, Statements and releases, accessed Sept. 5, 2023
Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo, Governor Lombardo Declares State of Emergency Due to Hurricane Hilary, Aug. 20, 2023
The Reno Gazette Journal, Burning Man exodus: Hours-long traffic jam stalls festival-goers finally able to leave, Sept. 5, 2023
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