First, the Burning Man Festival in Nevada is not close to Las Vegas – it’s way north – 140 miles north of Reno. There are virtually no services in the area. The nearby “town” of Gerlach lists a population of 28. Upwards of +80,000 people cram into this place for the annual Burning Man Festival. It’s only accessible by a 2-lane road.
This is called a “high desert”. It’s usually breezy to windy, dry and hot during the summer and windy, dry and cold in the winter. On average it rains only one day in September. When it does, the ground turns into a sticky goo that’s hard to drive through. High temperatures on Sept. 2-3 were in the mid 60s with lows in the low-mid 50s. It wasn’t warm.
Someone decreed that after the rain, the road in and out of the Festival would be closed and people were told to just stay in place until conditions improved.
Reno had measurable rain on September 1, September 2 and September 3. On September 1, the peak wind gust was 47 mph. That’s windy. It’s estimated that the Burning Man Festival got 8/10ths inch of rain. That’s not a ton of rain by most standards, but here in the desert, that much rain makes a sticky mess.
This is what the Reno National Weather Service wrote in their forecast discussion on Thursday, August 31: “FAVORABLE DYNAMICS AND MOISTURE WILL RESULT IN PRECIPITATION CHANCES NORTH OF I-80 BY MIDNIGHT THROUGH FRIDAY MORNING. HIGHEST RAIN CHANCES BY FRIDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING WILL BE NE CALIFORNIA, INCLUDING THE TAHOE BASIN, EASTWARD ACROSS THE SURPRISE VALLEY (60-85% CHANCE) WITH ABOUT A 20-30% CHANCE FOR A THUNDERSTORM TO BE MIXED IN. THERE IS A MARGINAL RISK FOR FLASH FLOODING IN THESE AREAS, SO BE AWARE IF YOU ARE DOING ANY RECREATION NEAR FLASHY AREAS OR BURN SCARS (TAKE SHELTER FOR LIGHTNING TOO!).”
People (especially the people running an event like this) need to pay attention to the latest forecast and sometimes change their plans based on that forecast.
I think the main reason that tornado fatalities have decreased over the last 100 years is the quality of the outlooks, watches and warnings and the fact that people know what to do when severe weather moves in. The Dexter, Michigan Tornado of March 2012 is a classic example…an EF3 tornado destroyed houses…but there were no serious injuries. Residents when to the lowest floor and got away from windows and were safe.
This is true for less dramatic events like the Beach Hazards Advisory we’ve had out the past two days north of Holland. Watching the webcams, you could see the red flags and the fact that most everyone stayed up on the beach, not venturing out into the 3-4 foot waves.
In Michigan the weather can change quickly and it can be very different from one end of our viewing area to another. It’s a good idea to keep up with the latest forecast and be prepared to change your plans if the weather is going to cause a problem.