BLACK ROCK CITY, Nevada — Whiteout dust conditions forced Burning Man organizers to temporarily halt entry for thousands of participants until the winds died down Sunday evening.
Gates reopened at 6:30 p.m. after a three-hour closure prompted by swirling dust storms that created dangerous driving conditions. Sunday is the official start of the event, which draws 80,000 people to the remote desert two hours north of Reno to build a city from scratch for a week.
After reopening the gates, Burning Man officials said the wait time to get in will be 10 hours.
While thousands of people have already arrived to begin setting up camp, the bulk of people began arriving Sunday, winding their way along a marked route called Gate Road to reach entry checkpoints. Burning Man is a ticketed event, and all attendees are required to show an individual ticket to enter.
“Gate is now open but subject to further closures due to weather conditions,” Burning Man officials said on Twitter.
Whiteout conditions are common during the event, with desert dust stirred up by thousands of arriving cars, RVs, trucks, and buses.
Traffic entering the event site before the closure faced periodic halts because poor visibility made it too dangerous for anyone to drive.
Under optimum conditions, the drive can take as little as 15 minutes from the paved county road into the entry gates. Sunday, before the closure, delays meant the drive was taking upwards of six hours, Burning Man officials said.
The dust storm forced participants already at the festival site to wear masks and goggles to move around or to hunker down behind trucks, inside RVs or in wildly flapping tents.
Gusts of up to 40 mph had been predicted for the area Sunday afternoon, but by evening had dropped significantly.
UPDATE 6 P.M. SUNDAY:
The gates into Burning Man remained closed at 6 p.m. Sunday and organizers are directing travelers to turn back to Reno or, if that's not possible, to shelter in place on the highway.