Condition Alpha: Can you handle the Blow?

When the dust storm hits, you want to be in an RV, drinking a cold one from the fridge and using the bathroom whenever the urge hits you. Perhaps enjoying a different kind of blow – what ever tickles your fancy. Could be the blow of your cool air conditioner. You definitely don’t want to be on Deep Playa without an art car,  bicycle, or dust mask. But it happens. Are you prepared? Burners Galen and Bruce kindly put together this discussion of 2002’s “Condition Alpha“, a time when a dust storm hit that was so serious they closed the exits. Burners were trapped there together, with wind gusts up to 100 MPH.

The Condition Alpha Survival Guide is a good read, even if you have experienced these conditions before. Here’s the story of the Big Blowout from another perspective. Jim Mason was in a crane cab and argues that Burning Man causes this event, every year – similar to the argument Christopher Brooks is making in his appeal about Burning Man’s environmental impact. If true, then we could be in for trouble this year, with Exodus restricted to 1,000 vehicles per hour and the largest ever crowd.

I know BMOrg loves to live in fantasy land and wish things into existence, then blame Burners if that didn’t work. Here in the default world, where maths and physics and things like that can be useful too, it just seems impossible to me that Exodus times could be reduced from last year. They are closing one of the 2 exit lanes, holding back the number of cars released per hour on the single-lane road, and 10,900 more official participants means at least 6,000 more vehicles. Burning the Temple early, means more hours of heavy Exodus starting earlier…which seems like it could be bad news for dust storms.

From the 2012 Environmental Impact Assessment:

Gate Road is going to be widened for Exodus again this year. This will provide more space to stack cars instead of allowing too many cars onto the highway. For over half of the peak periods of Exodus, only one gravel lane will be used instead of two to avoid too many cars on the highway. 

From the 2006-2010 Environmental Assessment:

Based on BLM random counts at the event gate indicating that vehicles are occupied by 1.9 persons on average, participant traffic is estimated at 18,600 vehicles. Factoring in the vehicles required to manage the event, up to 19,000 vehicles could be anticipated 

This was for an event size of 35,500 (in 2005). 1.9 persons per vehicle, from 60,900 people = at least 32,000 vehicles this year.

I’ve been in Dubai on top of a massive skyscraper when a haboob came to town, it was quite a spectacular sight. These are experienced in parts of the Western US on a regular basis. With drought conditions all over the country, who knows what the weather will be like on the Playa? Dust masks, goggles, and bikes are essential. And lots of battery powered EL wire, forget glowsticks.

24 comments on “Condition Alpha: Can you handle the Blow?

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