Storm warning

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Zhust
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Storm warning

Post by Zhust » Thu Sep 19, 2013 9:09 am

So Sunday, a guy from our camp said some official (DPW?) called people over around the Man site and said there would be a thunderstorm cell arriving Monday morning through noon that would shut down transportation in the city for at least 24 hours. I don't think he was making up the report (he's not the type to pull a prank — at least not in the way it went down), but I was suspicious that it was a call to get people panicked and running out of BRC rather than slacking into Tuesday.

A few of us from camp walked the 30 yards to the Emergency Services tent. The crew there was casually sipping coffee, so I asked, "hey, did any of you hear about a big storm coming?" They collectively shrugged and said they hadn't heard anything. I was sure then it was prank. I told my [first-time burner] girlfriend that it was fake, but she wanted to leave Sunday night, missing the Temple burn. I assured her we'd be fine.

I went back to the original story and realized that I had never heard of a thunderstorm warning predicted more than about 4 hours in advance. To predict one 24 hours in advance suddenly seemed absurd, or so I reassured myself.

Then the giant game of "telephone" known as "Burning Man" happened. Within an hour, BMIR was announcing it. People riding by asked, "have you heard about the storm?" I suggested to others that if you don't like someone in you camp, let them know about the storm. We stirred the pot and had it up to a volcano with a thunderstorm that would pin you to the ground and lightning-rape you over and over.

Said girlfriend was still concerned. Admittedly, I fell for the appeal to emotion fallacy that such a visceral event must be weighed against the absolute unlikelihood of it actually happening. We went together to emergency services who had sill not heard of any storm. Raising their concern, one of them brought out an iPad with a private WiFi and showed me the forecast calling for a 20% chance of rain on Monday with 0.01 inches of precipitation.

We did stay and left on Monday at noon by the Burner Express bus. At no time did we encounter rain, arriving in Reno around 4 p.m.

So does anybody know where that rumor got started?

And I tip my hat if indeed it was someone just wanting everyone to leave early. Well played indeed.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by ygmir » Thu Sep 19, 2013 9:52 am

the warning was real.
and, the rain just barely missed us, in heavy amounts.
I personally closed the playa entrances as rain was falling hard and fast on that side of the city.
we had to speed all available trucks to the pavement, in the event enough rain fell. They are or would possibly be, our only emergency transport to Gerlach and beyond, and can be dispatched via radio.
With a small amount of rain, the playa become impassable. And not only that, it ruins the roadways to try to drive when it's wet. Add to that, the sticky nature of the mud, which quickly builds up on tires and it will stop bikes in their tracks.

we watched a couple of cells pass less than a mile from BRC, which would have turned the roads to quagmires in minutes.
There is a "rain protocol" which I think can be found in the BRC info.
We have to be pro-active on this stuff. If not, and we get caught vulnerable, we could have literally thousands of people stuck, on gate road and in the city, not being able to drive, bike, or really walk, very far. Jots would not get serviced and a myriad of other calamities can cascade.
It's much better to err on the side of safety in that situation.

An inch or so of rain and the city is in stasis, period, for as long as it takes to dry. And, that totally depends on winds and temps.

Laugh and roll your eyes all you want, but, rain is a real danger there. It's happened before, and can happen again.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by BBadger » Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:52 pm

If someone told me there was a storm a'brewing I'd have just said "Nice! Bring that shit on!" mostly because I've never suffered real severe weather on the playa.

But the whole emergency services bringing out their iPad to show you what was predicted reminds me of the storm over at Element 11. The folk manning an MV were using weather apps on their phone with Doppler readings to see where the big storm clouds in the distance were going to hit. The vehicles had to be covered up to prevent electronics damage. I found it pretty cool to see just how much technology and data changes how we operate, and how people really do utilize that data all the time even in oddball circumstances like some evanescent city in the desert.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by Eric » Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:53 pm

There was a post in another thread (the one on Exodus, maybe?) about meeting a family in (Fernley?) who had been camped to the north of BRC & got caught in the Monday storm, and almost stuck. The storm did get close, and even if it had "only" hit the mountains on the west side, and not the playa itself, it still could have put the city into lockdown until the BLM declared the lake edge dry enough to drive on. That quick flash of rain on Monday afternoon was enough to close it for close to two hours - can you imagine what a hard rain in the mountains would have done, with all that water coming down & settling on the playa's edge?
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Re: Storm warning

Post by BBadger » Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:05 pm

Eric wrote:There was a post in another thread (the one on Exodus, maybe?) about meeting a family in (Fernley?) who had been camped to the north of BRC & got caught in the Monday storm, and almost stuck. The storm did get close, and even if it had "only" hit the mountains on the west side, and not the playa itself, it still could have put the city into lockdown until the BLM declared the lake edge dry enough to drive on. That quick flash of rain on Monday afternoon was enough to close it for close to two hours - can you imagine what a hard rain in the mountains would have done, with all that water coming down & settling on the playa's edge?
And yet despite all those reasons we'd still see complaints about "pulsing" not working.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by gaminwench » Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:21 pm

We experienced 3 hours of heavy rain on the playa early in July; there was NO mobility (even walking around camp was a pain) for a good 18 hours. We made the best of it, of course.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by graidawg » Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:28 pm

Eric wrote:*SNIP it still could have put the city into lockdown *SNIP
The warning pretty much did, with the 8 hours to gate queue from early Monday morning. if the storm had struck the playa as threatened it would of just had people in their cars instead of their camps.
ygmir wrote:the warning was real.*snip*
If not, and we get caught vulnerable, we could have literally thousands of people stuck, on gate road and in the city, not being able to drive, bike, or really walk, very far. Jots would not get serviced and a myriad of other calamities can cascade.
It's much better to err on the side of safety in that situation.
pretty much what happened, i suggest a better plan be put in place than the existing apparent "RUN PANIC! FLOOD! WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!"

Honestly when the plan is almost as bad as the possible outcome and worse than the 80% likely outcome, you need a better plan. the radio call of "leave now or be stuck for 3 days" simply caused panic and chaos. Also it meant virtually no real MOOPing got done causing more work for everyone else. by everyone else i mean the 75 souls still out there clearing up for us
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Re: Storm warning

Post by maladroit » Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:39 pm

graidawg is making a HUGE amount of sense right now. If BMORG actually believes that a major storm will happen, the correct response would be to issue a cutoff time for people to get on Gate Road, and if you don't make it then you need to shelter-in-place until the danger has passed. It's hard to believe that BMORG thought 15,000 people stuck on Gate Road knee-deep in mud and shit would have been a better situation to handle than everyone snug in their own camps with their own supplies and infrastructure.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by MikeGyver » Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:45 pm

BBadger wrote: And yet despite all those reasons we'd still see complaints about "pulsing" not working.
The reason I see there being people saying "pulsing" didn't work was there was no word over the radio about gate getting closed for two hours. I understand that they wanted people out and saying gate is closed till it dries would have had people sitting at camp or even unpacking tents and setting back up.

The situation could have been handled much better and there would be less complaints. But then you have 24 hours to get 60,000+ people out you do what you can. I'm sure there will be a better plan for the future.

I loved watching everyone in exodus run to their cars at about 1PM when the rain started for about five minutes. Its like they thought they were going to melt.
Maladroit wrote:graidawg is making a HUGE amount of sense right now. If BMORG actually believes that a major storm will happen, the correct response would be to issue a cutoff time for people to get on Gate Road, and if you don't make it then you need to shelter-in-place until the danger has passed. It's hard to believe that BMORG thought 15,000 people stuck on Gate Road knee-deep in mud and shit would have been a better situation to handle than everyone snug in their own camps with their own supplies and infrastructure.
That is a good idea. if the rain really did come down for longer than 5 minutes I would have been screwed.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by gyre » Thu Sep 19, 2013 7:37 pm

Everyone should know that a '20% chance of rain' refers to area, not the time you will be rained on.

We had a day recently here with very heavy rains and destruction a few miles away and zero rain in midtown.

The warning was storms, 30% chance, referring to area rained on.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by Aurelia » Thu Sep 19, 2013 8:18 pm

Doppler readings showed strong storms in isolated pockets

Interesting response you have

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Re: Storm warning

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Thu Sep 19, 2013 8:54 pm

graidawg wrote: Honestly when the plan is almost as bad as the possible outcome and worse than the 80% likely outcome, you need a better plan.
Try telling that to the idiots in charge.
maladroit wrote:graidawg is making a HUGE amount of sense right now. If BMORG actually believes that a major storm will happen, the correct response would be to issue a cutoff time for people to get on Gate Road, and if you don't make it then you need to shelter-in-place until the danger has passed. It's hard to believe that BMORG thought 15,000 people stuck on Gate Road knee-deep in mud and shit would have been a better situation to handle than everyone snug in their own camps with their own supplies and infrastructure.
Very hard to believe indeed. I find it practically impossible to believe that Bmorg actually, truly thinks that some of their plans will create optimal situations. But then again, they keep coming up with plans...

We chose to wait out the storm. All of our camp was gone save 8 of us. We figured that if the shit storm showed up and all hell broke loose and they had to shut down gate road for hours or days it would be way better to be stuck in camp with supplies,infrastructure and booze for the 3 days that it would take for the playa to dry up.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by ygmir » Thu Sep 19, 2013 9:53 pm

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Re: Storm warning

Post by Eric » Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:29 pm

graidawg wrote:
Eric wrote:*SNIP it still could have put the city into lockdown *SNIP
The warning pretty much did, with the 8 hours to gate queue from early Monday morning. if the storm had struck the playa as threatened it would of just had people in their cars instead of their camps.
They had still successfully moved a huge amount of the population off of the playa - I don't know the last time I've seen the city that empty Sunday night. Hell, Adrian was saying that it felt like being at BMan in 1998 that night, with the few things happening being spread way apart.

Was there a long line to the Gate on Monday from the people who waited until then to head the warnings? Yep - and we were in it, but we accepted that we put ourselves there when we decided to stay for the Temple burn. Was it the best thing that could have been done? Who knows - you think of a way to get 68,000+ people onto a two lane highway in the face of an impending storm while meeting all the BLM requirements. You probably would have done it the same way they did - it's not like they had 3 weeks after the event to come up with a plan...
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Re: Storm warning

Post by trilobyte » Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:43 pm

After hearing a increasing series of warnings and threats of horrible weather from various people who had not themselves actually seen or heard the information directly, I got in touch with people and asked questions. A friend of a friend kindly invited me into his trailer and brought up the national weather service data. It was reatively serious stuff. Significant chance of showers over a 12 hour period of time on Monday. If it rained, they'd have to close the road. Not just while the rain fell, but until it was dry enough. Even a moderate rain during exodus could easily turn into a 12 or more hour clusterfuck.

Having stayed through the arrival of that system, I don't think the warnings were unfounded. The wind and dust got heavy and coming from a different direction from the prevailing wind for a few hours, and there was some rain. And looking at the skies, it was clear that a significant system had passed very close to us.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by maladroit » Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:30 pm

I suppose it comes down to self-reliance. We heard the radio, talked to friends in BMORG (20% rain), looked at the Exodus line, and decided to prepack as much as possible but keep basic camp structure active through Monday evening (we were tearing down art all Monday). By 9pm we were ready to flop down the hexayurt and go, so we did. But we could have stayed another 24 hours or more in relative safety, comfort, and minimal impact to BMORG compared to those who dutifully panicked after being told to GTFO ASAP. Everyone at Burning Man knows how to camp, but few know how to poop in an overloaded sedan. Exodus rainstorm is basically the definition of Hell, even according to BMORG disaster planning, so we decided that going into Exodus with looming rainstorms was obviously stupid.

That wasn't a decision made three weeks later, it was an obvious on-site call to someone who's 18 years short of being a 20-year playa veteran.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by trilobyte » Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:45 pm

I would have preferred to stay until early Tuesday, as planned (like you guys, I keep a basic shelter together until the end). But campmates were unable to keep from freaking out, and a couple bailed on us, so we ended up striking early and working much harder than we needed to. I wasn't a popular guy when I told them there was no way we were going to get into Exodus line during the day on Monday, but I figured that if the storm came and we were stuck, I'd rather not have every last thing packed away and unreachable. We compromised and left Monday evening after the sun had gone over the mountain and Exodus was in the 4ish hour range according to BMIR. We got to Reno at crack thirty, and started out tired, cranky, and late on Tuesday instead of well-rested and ready to go, and arrived in SF shortly after the time we would have arrived had we stayed on the playa until Tuesday.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by maladroit » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:01 am

Yeah, that was our hiccup too...had to pull over and sleep a couple hours, but still ended up bumming around the casino for 6 hours until our room was ready. Would have had about 8 extra hours of sleep and left Reno 6 hours early if we'd struck camp at dawn on Tuesday.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by pink » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:06 am

We tore down the rest of our main shade structure, but when the rain was about to hit knew we wouldn't get the dome down. That gave us a nice place to huddle while it rained. We were going to stay until Tuesday regardless, and agreed having some of our infrastructure still in place was a good thing. We were prepared to tough it out a few more days if necessary; we had enough food & water and our floor tarps were still mostly in place which would cut down on the amount of muck to tramp through. I'd seen all the pictures of Lake Manbase to know what we were in for if it really rained & was prepared to wait it out.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by Captain Goddammit » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:38 am

I was checking every weather source I could find (I had internet) and didn't see anything as bad as what was being announced.
The rest of my camp freaked out, scrambled to knock down and left immediately. I had more to do to get my MV set up for transport and there was no way I could bug out as quickly as they did. It kind of sucked, I don't like driving alone that far into nowhere (in case of trouble). But they all left so I figured screw it, I'll just stay. So fucking what if it rains, we'll simply wait it out. There were enough people and supplies to have a fine "hurricane party".
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Re: Storm warning

Post by gyre » Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:39 am

You're already in a boat.

What's the worst that could happen?

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Re: Storm warning

Post by Drawingablank » Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:49 am

I was expecting another year of relaxed exodus like 2012.

Instead I saw a mass of people panic packing, failing to moop their camps properly, jumping in their vehicles without even saying their goodbyes, and racing to sit on an 8+ hour exodus line.

Pretty much anyone who has ever waked or biked on a freshly watered BRC road can imagine how bad it could be from a heavy rain, but as mentioned above I fail to see how being stuck in that exodus line would have been better than hunkering down in place (if it had actually rained hard).

We have camps designed to hold up to the elements and hopefully full of the shit we need to survive with some degree of comfort. We are adaptable. I know I personally would have been a lot less comforable stuck on line than in camp.

So instead of the crazy line, Graidawg, Bunny, CFM, and I with occasional vists from others in our village had a relaxing Monday. In the evening all the remaining members of our village got together for some food and drinks. We did a a leisurely break down and packed up everything but one shade structure and chairs during the day, then broke our shade after sunset and had everything ready to roll out on Tuesday morning after a final moop sweep (never even had to hit the brakes until Gerlach).
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Re: Storm warning

Post by theCryptofishist » Fri Sep 20, 2013 3:20 pm

Drawingablank wrote:So instead of the crazy line, Graidawg, Bunny, CFM, and I with occasional vists from others in our village had a relaxing Monday. In the evening all the remaining members of our village got together for some food and drinks. We did a a leisurely break down and packed up everything but one shade structure and chairs during the day, then broke our shade after sunset and had everything ready to roll out on Tuesday morning after a final moop sweep (never even had to hit the brakes until Gerlach).
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Re: Storm warning

Post by EspressoDude » Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:45 am

we left about 0500 Tuesday, about 45 minutes from 420 / A to pavement. At Gerlach turned north towards Cedarville. after about 4 miles we saw standing water in the ditches along the road and a bit further there were high water marks in the ditches up to the pavement and some sand on the pavement from gullywashers.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by bradtem » Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:22 am

I think Burning Man has been extremely lucky it's never seen a real major playa storm hit on Labour day. In a real rain storm, you will have trouble walking very far, and you absolutely can't bike or drive. If you walk, you will accumulate a "bowling ball" on the bottom of each shoe. Only if you bring a metal implement to scrape off the mud and make your shoe flat again will you cover much ground.

And then there's a real wind storm. There have been wind storms out there that tear down decently constructed domes. I've seen a few during the event and heard of worse outside the event, but never on Labour day.

Some year, it will happen, with all the thousands who just have to get back to flights and jobs. It won't be fun. Bullet dodged, it seems.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by Dr Helix » Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:58 am

It was a weird day for sure. We heard all the warnings, including one Ranger who seemed slightly irked that we weren't packing up. Then a bit later, another Ranger stopped by and when we voiced our questions as to how real the threat of rain was just winked and said "You don't believe everything we tell you, now do you?" Since we had planned to be here through Tuesday we decided to stay, but erred on the side of caution and took our art project down on Sunday instead of Monday. The rest of our camp did decide to leave early Monday morning and got caught in the back-up. We rolled out Tuesday late morning with no problems out and were in Reno by 5. But all in all I think for many people it was a no brainer. They HAD to be back and could not risk being stuck. From what I have now read here, it was a near miss in terms of really bad weather so I think BM was justified in motivating people to go. Just glad I had the option not to, and was lucky enough that the storm missed us.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by maladroit » Mon Sep 23, 2013 3:49 pm

I think if someone went into the Preparation board and asked "When do I need to leave Monday in order to get back to work Tuesday morning?" we'd all say "You need to leave Sunday, skip the temple burn." Therefore everyone still around on Monday needs to be prepared for the possibility of having to leave Tuesday instead. It really shouldn't be a no-brainer, it's bad not to leave yourself the ability to make a decision. Last year, people seemed to use their judgement a bit more.

I left Monday around noon in 2012 and rolled from my camp to the highway without stopping.

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Re: Storm warning

Post by bradtem » Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:04 pm

Yes, people who need to be at work Tuesday morning tend to need to get out Sunday, or very early Monday. However, that is ignoring the point that many of those who don't need to get somewhere Tuesday still have to get somewhere Wednesday, or return rental equipment, etc. Or Thursday. Only a certain minority leaves with no particular place they have to be. A lot of people who leave Monday have Tuesday plane flights from Reno. They leave with enough time to get there in normal circumstances, but a heavy rain or storm that closes the gate for a long time is not something people plan for in this equation, even if you might argue they should.

So, if it did happen, you would get chaos as a lot of people would be feeling they "have" to get out, making it even worse.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by Zhust » Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:47 pm

I do want to add one thing. One of the reasons for my lack of concern was because I live 10 miles south of Lake Ontario. Geographic features like lakes and mountains are the things that most effect weather. When lake-effect snow is predicted (that is, snow that comes from the moisture of the lake), the shoreline is usually spared, but a half-mile inland gets a foot, 5 miles inland gets a few inches, and 10 miles inland won't see any.

I don't know what to expect exactly from mountains, but I know that my "yellow marks on the rain radar move linearly west-to-east and maintain the same intensity" method of predicting precipitation is certainly false. Put another way, if Burning Man were held in where I live in winter, a major lake-effect storm warning would garner a shrug from me, but probably send anybody not from here into a panic.

So when I heard the warning this year, I went to people who I thought might know more about local weather (or had access to people who did). And when the reaction was, "meh." I figured the risk was very low.

I'm betting, in fact, that similar weather patterns routinely behave more like what happened on Labor Day this year.

So until a local says, "oh yeah, this is one that will hit us", I'll continue to be unconcerned.
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Re: Storm warning

Post by bradtem » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:21 pm

Having grown up on the shores of Lake Ontario, I know all about not believing the weatherman.

In the west, though, the forecasts are very accurate. In fact, you routinely check the forecast a WEEK out and expect it to be true! Seriously. And this forecast was true, a band of thunderstorms did go over the area, it just didn't soak the city.
See giant panoramas of BRC: http://www.templetons.com/brad/burn

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