The jellyfish invasion showed no signs of letting up over the weekend, as swimmers reported stings at eye-popping rates on Charleston-area beaches.
At Isle of Palms County Park there were 326 stings reported Saturday alone, about a quarter of all the stings recorded so far this season.
By contrast, there were just 29 stings at that location in the whole 2017 season, according to Nikki Bowie, safety program manager with Charleston County Parks and Recreation.
Jellyfish follow warm water, and this time of year is when the ocean is at its warmest, with water temperatures in the mid-80s, according to the National Weather Service.
Bowie also said a persistent onshore wind could be pushing the jellies closer to beaches.
The highest sting reports have come from the IOP park and the area around the Folly Beach Pier, places where high concentrations of people are more likely to bump into marine life.
At the pier there were 419 reported stings between Saturday and Sunday, Bowie said. The reports follow a busy Friday, where many swimmers took to social media to warn others about the bothersome swarm.
Bowie said that lifeguards suspected in two or three cases near the Folly pier that the stings might have come from Portuguese men-of-war, which are not actually jellyfish but have similar stinging tentacles that can be 100 feet long.
Its stings are much more painful and in some cases, more dangerous than most jellyfish that come to the area.
The possible men-o-war stings were not confirmed, however — Bowie said the symptoms were so severe that lifeguards suspected them but none were actually spotted in the water.
Desirée Fragoso, interim city administrator at the Isle of Palms, said the city's fire department got 139 calls between Saturday and Sunday for jellyfish stings. There were no man-o-war sightings, she said.
Swimmers who are stung should remove any remaining stingers or tentacles. An easy way to do that is by rubbing wet sand on the irritated area or scraping it with the edge of something stiff, like a credit card.
Salt water is the best treatment to reduce irritation after removing stingers, Bowie said. Icing the site can further reduce pain. County park lifeguards no longer carry vinegar, long thought to be the best remedy for stings, because it's been found to not be effective against the species that are found in South Carolina's waters, Bowie said.
There is some hope on the horizon, however. Bowie said that all county park locations saw a dip in reported stings Sunday, and she suspected that few would be reported on Monday because choppy water and the threat of rain would likely keep people out of the ocean.
"Hopefully they’ve moved up the coast or down the coast, whichever way they're going," Bowie said.