Black Rock City is almost entirely sealed off from the news of the world, and word of Hurricane Katrina's devastation is only now reaching the playa. An informal survey of 50 people Thursday found just 15 knew the nation was in the midst of its worst natural disaster since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
The above mirrors my experience pretty accurately. Our last day in "civilization" was Monday, when the paper we read in Alturas, CA said the Hurricane was on its way and would be bad. After you get to Burning Man, there is (except for a limited elite, aka BM staff or national media) no internet, no cell phone, no TV, no newspapers. The nearest "town" is like 10 miles away by car, and while you CAN leave the event to get there, it's kind of a hassle to leave the playa (and you have to pay $20 to leave and come back) and I'm not sure that you'd have cell service there anyway, though you could probably buy a newspaper at the gas station. So even those of us that had a personal stake in finding out what was going on were pretty in the dark.
People who arrived at Burning Man on Thursday or Friday had -some- news for us: we understood the potential scope of the disaster, but not the anarchy that followed or how dire the situation was for the people that had survived the flood. I spent Labor Day/ Monday morning reading a stack of the last few days' Reno newspapers at the place we were having breakfast and trying to piece together what had happened and if people were safe by this point.
My family lives 60 miles from NO in Baton Rouge, and when I finally talked to them on Monday, they'd lost power for 5 days, but other than that were okay. I found it sorta amusing that as I'd been off in the desert voluntarily living without electricity or plumbing and (mostly) eating non-perishable foods, my parents had been doing the same thing, except without the costumes, art or
Dicky Box (worksafe, despite the name) to keep them and their unfortunately-timed houseguests to keep them from being bored.
My best friend Dave lives/d in Jefferson Parish, and while he'd been leaving messages on my cell phone while I was gone (I hadn't talked to him before BM and hadn't told him I'd be incommunicado), it took two days before I could finally reach his cell; even though he was safely in Mississippi, 504 area codes are problematic with the way cellular systems work. So he and his wife and pets are okay, though his workplace is toast, and he's found himself suddenly taking an assignment in Kentucky until his employers figure out what happens next. His house is relatively undamaged, but there's still the question of if there's going to be a city to return to as far as living in it is concerned.
The only "big" hurricane to hit while I lived in Louisiana, Andrew (1992), stranded Dave with me, my then boyfriend, and Dave's then-girlfriend in Baton Rouge in my tiny rental house in August. I can't say my experience remotely compares to that of the people stuck in the Superdome this time, but even a decade later, the memory of being stuck in a house for 2-3 days without much food, any electricity, no fans/air conditioning, and nothing to do other than read or chat is pretty awful, and that was without martial law, looters, rapists, or broken toilets to contend with.
So yeah, I went to Burning Man and came back to the destruction of Life As We Knew It in Louisiana. So it seems pretty pointless now to talk about what I did there, but maybe later.