Rubbery invertebrates packing a painful sting continue to play havoc with beachgoers trying to escape the blistering Lowcountry heat.
Hundreds more jellyfish stings were reported over the weekend at Charleston County beaches, as well as several sightings of Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, which have long tentacles and a particularly nasty sting. One man-of-war encounter on Folly Beach sent a young girl to the hospital Saturday, authorities said.
Folly logged some 250 reported stings Friday and had 135 more the following day, said Nikki Bowie, safety program manager for the county Park and Recreation Commission. Isle of Palms had the next highest sting count, with 42 on Friday, she said.
The number of reported stings dropped across the board Sunday, but that might be attributed to strong winds and rough surf.
"There were not nearly as many people in the water," Bowie said.
Bob Van Dolah, director of the Marine Resources Research Institute of the state Department of Natural Resources, said that is a more likely explanation than the jellies suddenly packing up and heading elsewhere. "They don't just disappear like that," he said.
Some folks fishing on the Folly pier have pulled in box jellyfish, which possess a pretty painful sting, Van Dolah said. Some have domes measuring 4 inches to 5 inches, making them rather unavoidable when a swarm hits, he said.
Jellies thrive in warm water, and they are known to make seasonable appearances around these parts. Winds and currents are likely to blame for their current concentrations in our waters, Van Dolah said. Those same factors probably will carry them away at some point, but it's anyone's guess exactly when that will happen, he said.
In the meantime, Van Dolah cautions people against venturing too deep in the ocean water. If you spot a man-of-war, just get out altogether as the potential pain is just not worth the risk, he said. They can have tentacles that extend 40 feet, creating a venomous ribbon that holds a lot of sting.
Isle of Palms residents Nancy and Jeffrey Guss pulled a sizable man-of-war from the surf off 32nd Avenue a few weeks back. She's avoided the water ever since, and multiple jellyfish stings have convinced her husband to follow suit. "They seem to be everywhere," she said.