STURGIS, S.D. -- Pepper Elliott hightailed it home from a campground concert east of Sturgis when a heavy storm hit the city.
She was hoping to avoid getting too wet, but started to get peppered with hail as she drove back to her campsite in town.
She took cover under a gas station canopy with “a whole bunch of other motorcycles,” said the Greeley, Colo., visitor to the 75th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
“I guess I survived,” she said.
Others got soaked at the outdoor concerts, campgrounds or walking downtown as about 1.25 inches of rain fell over an extended period.
“The strongest storm in the whole region was right over Sturgis,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Johnson of Rapid City on Tuesday.
Because the ground got soaked in many areas, Johnson said they had issued a flash flood warning for the Sturgis and surrounding Black Hills area.
As for the hail, he said they had reports of pea-sized and a few nickel-sized reports in the Sturgis area.
The storms continued to bother motorcyclists traveling through the Hills again on Tuesday afternoon when about 2 inches of rain hit Deadwood, about 15 miles south of Sturgis. Rain was also moving into Sturgis later Tuesday afternoon.
More was possible throughout the week.
Johnson said there was an active weather pattern but that the chance for rain was only about 20 percent to 30 percent for most of the rest of the week. The official rally runs through Sunday, although many visitors stretch the event out over many more days.
The temperatures are almost ideal, however, hovering in the upper 70s to lower 80s. It’s a bit chilly at night in the Hills, though, with Johnson saying at some higher elevations it was actually down into the 30s one night.
While the rain put a damper on the event for some, the crowds continued to pour into the city with officials still expecting possibly 1 million people by the time the rally is over.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation gave its first report on traffic counts on Tuesday.
The department has 22 counters on highways leading into Sturgis.
Kristi Sandal, public information officer for the department, said counts were up 37 percent over last year for the Friday through Sunday period with vehicle numbers of almost 240,000.
The 90,304 vehicles counted on Sunday wasn’t a record, but came close. The record count was 96,612 during the Harley Davidson 100th anniversary party in Sturgis on Aug. 4, 2003. The department also this year kept track of pre-rally counts and from July 24 to July 30, about 217,000 vehicles were counted.
Sandal said all indications are that the rally crowd will beat the approximate 600,000 people that set the attendance record in 2000 -- the 60th anniversary of the rally.
Meanwhile, the rally traffic death toll rose to eight as of early Tuesday morning.
One woman, 63-year-old Rose Ann Richard of Belfield, N.D., died from injuries in a vehicle-motorcycle crash on Saturday. She was a passenger on her husband’s motorcycle.
The other rally-related death reported Tuesday was in the southern Black Hills in Custer State Park where John Rowlett Jr., 42, of Wichita, Kan., lost control of his motorcycle and went into the ditch and collided with a huge rock.
Tony Mangan of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety said injury accidents were up along with fatals this year, largely because of the larger crowd. However, he said one trend the department is seeing is that motorcyclists are taking curves on the dangerous Hills highways too fast and sharply and going off the roadways. There were 76 injury accidents in the area as of Tuesday morning, almost 50 more than last year.
Meanwhile, DUI arrests were at 108 and felony drug arrests were at 50. The DUIs are at the same pace as last year, but drug arrests were up.
The department reported one unusual incident Tuesday as Mangan said Deserae Emmett, 31, of Hazel, S.D., kicked and bit a state trooper about midnight after a traffic arrest north of Deadwood. At the Lawrence County jail, she tried to escape. She was charged with DUI, open container, resisting arrest, simple assault and escape. The trooper was not seriously injured, said Mangan.