Many motorcycle enthusiasts attending this weekend’s Atlantic Beach Bikefest are riding out the rain instead of riding bikes Saturday night, as foul weather approaching South Carolina’s coastline developed into Tropical Storm Bonnie.
Some bikers say they will wait out the weather in their hotel rooms or condos, others who hauled their motorcycles for the weekend rally say they’ll still drive around in their vehicles to check out the local bars.
But Lloyd Felix, who rode 10 hours from New York to attend his first Bikefest on Friday, is headed back home Saturday night.
“We didn’t get the full experience, but now we can’t say we’ve never ridden here,” said Felix as he sat on his motorcycle, steady rain pouring down around him.
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The nasty weather that moved in early Saturday quickly thinned the gathering of folks along Atlantic Street by early evening.
Hundreds of bikes from across the country that lined the main thoroughfare through Atlantic Beach on Friday night gave way to fewer than 50 the next day.
The entire South Carolina coast is under a tropical storm warning. The center of the storm is expected to hit Charleston, but National Weather Service forecasters predict up to four inches of rain along the Grand Strand.
You just get used to the fact, at some point, it’s going to rain and you have to deal with it.
Selassi Sun, biker
Dangerous rip currents are keeping everyone out of the ocean except for the most experienced surfers. Although wind gusts are predicted to be minimal in what is expected to be a loosely formed storm, weather forecasters are warning that waterspouts could form and thunderstorms are expected.
Mounting waves crashed along the shore on Atlantic Beach, pounding the sand as bands of rain moved toward land and a deserted beachfront — a rare sight for Memorial Day weekend.
Selassi Sun from Birmingham, Alabama, stayed under a vendor’s tent on Atlantic Street as the rain poured over his motorcycle.
“You just get used to the fact, at some point, it’s going to rain and you have to deal with it,” Sun said.
Sun plans to hang out at his hotel until later Saturday night in the hopes that the rain subsides, and then plans on hitting some clubs and parties planned around the Grand Strand.
We didn’t get the full experience, but now we can’t say we’ve never ridden here.
Lloyd Felix, biker
“We believe in being safe, so if it gets real bad we’ll keep it indoors,” Sun said.
Nearly 100 police officers and emergency personnel lined the streets of Atlantic Beach on Friday night, but were scarce on Saturday.
Many were huddled inside their police cars, only a handful of law enforcement officers guarded a couple of intersections to keep out traffic.
The chute along U.S. Highway 17 Business that deposited traffic into the historic Atlantic Beach neighborhood was still jam-packed, mostly with cars of lost tourists and police vehicles passing through. Travel time at one point was 20 minutes to pass five blocks.
A handful of motorcycles cruised the neighborhood sporadically .
Police officials are warning bikers to take extra care if they do venture out in the rain when Bonnie makes landfall at 2 a.m. Sunday, and to be aware of water ponding on roads that can lead to accidents.
Nearly a dozen motorcycle wrecks were reported Friday night, none resulted in fatalities.
Tropical Storm Bonnie ruins long weekend on Carolina beaches
Tropical Storm Bonnie formed Saturday afternoon off the coast of South Carolina as heavy rains from the system ruined the start of the long holiday weekend.
Top sustained winds reached 40 mph Saturday afternoon, making it the season’s second-named tropical storm, four days before the official start of hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The center of Bonnie was about 125 miles from Charleston as of 5 p.m., the Miami-based center said in advising. Bonnie was moving toward the coast at 10 mph and tropical storm warnings were issued for the entire South Carolina coast.
The worst of the rain and wind was ahead of the storm, which was expected to near the coast south of Charleston Sunday, then turn to the northeast and slowly dissipate as it moves along the coast of the Carolinas over the rest of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, forecasters said.
No evacuations have been ordered, with forecasters saying the biggest danger will likely be from locally heavy rain.