A severe hail storm swept through Sturgis with unbridled fury Friday evening, shattering windows in cars, denting motorcycles, and creating havoc on campers. Hail the size of tangerines fell almost horizontally, fueled by driving winds as the storm left revelers at Sturgis in a state of shock and disbelief.
People scrambled to seek cover under anything they could. We had just pulled into the parking lot of the Full Throttle Saloon around 6 p.m. when the storm hit. The clouds hung low on the horizon, blotting out the sky just before the first few stones fell.
Luckily, we weren’t riding motorcycles at the time.
“Look, it’s hailing,” said Eric Novisedlak, MCUSA’s videographer as the first pea-sized pebbles fell.
There was no time to make a dash for the Full Throttle Saloon so we waited out the hail storm, trapped in our rental SUV as the intensity increased. The noise of the impact against our vehicle quickly turned from a few taps to an angry mob hammering on our car from every direction. The wind blew hard as the hail come down in horizontal sheets. The
storm swept in from the direction of town, so we moved our SUV close to a trailer to try and tuck in against the onslaught. Not soon after, the first crack in our front windshield happened. Not long after two more followed. Our fear was focused on the glass sunroof over our head, but the tempered glass held.
After the storm, people returned to assess the damage to their vehicles. A blue Saturn near us had a fist-sized hole in the right driver’s side fender. Countless windows were knocked out, while others were peppered with holes. Cars hoods were cratered, E-Z ups were blown over trailers, and motorcycles sustained major damage. Tents at the Buffalo Chip Campground were flattened, newer RVs fared the best, while older tin ones were heavily pock marked.
We walked by a local girl working at the Full Throttle Saloon who sat crying in her front seat when she discovered how badly her car was damaged. Another couple about a hundred feet away got caught out on their motorcycle and had to seek shelter under the metal awning of a fifth-wheel that wasn’t attached to a truck. The husband had taken a direct hit on his forearm and showed us a two-inch welt and a wide purple bruise but said he didn’t think it was broken. Another rider dumped his Harley trying to load his battered bike up a slippery wet trailer ramp, the bike almost pinning him to the ground. We rushed over to make sure he was
alright, then helped him push his motorcycle into the trailer. Though we don’t have an injury report, we met several people who had been hurt by the giant hail stones.
Insurance companies will have their hands full with the amount of claims pouring in after this one. Many others, like the owner of the blue Saturn we mentioned whom we talked to immediately after the storm, didn’t have insurance. The damages to vehicles alone will likely run into the millions.