In what lifeguards are calling the worst invasion in years, Portugese man-of-war are piling up on beaches in Broward County, stinging hundreds as they are blown close to shore.
In Fort Lauderdale alone, 261 people were stung on Saturday and 212 Friday.
"It's extreme. It is wall-to-wall man-of-war," Delray Beach ocean rescue supervisor and 14-year veteran Heather Irurzun told the Palm Beach Post. "I've never seen it this bad."
Delray Beach is one of very few to have been closed so far, but rescue stations are flying yellow caution flags elsewhere to indicate the presence of stinging creatures. In some areas of Palm Beach County, lifeguards were dissuading swimmers.
In Pompano Beach, near SE 12th St, resident Lara McClure filmed this video showing hundreds of man-of-war left on the sand by tides:
The man-of-war, each actually a colony of four different sea animals, has no rudder or ability to self-propel. While spotted regularly in Florida between Thanksgiving and Easter, consisent southeast winds over the last several days have sent a high number into South Florida beaches, where their venomous tentacles have been a problem.
The man-of-war's sting is used to paralyze prey like very small fish and shrimp. While only fatal to humans in very extreme cases, it does hurt worse than watching the Dolpins, and can cause swelling and shortness of breath. Eeven the tentacles of dead man-of-war piled on the sand can still pack a sting.
As such, authorities are urging beach-goers not to touch the dead man-of-war, even with a stick. The tentacles can be longer than expected, they say, and partial, detached tentacles found floating in the water can also injure.
Lifeguards are equipped with treatment gels and ointments, but those stung without access to a lifeguard station should carefully remove any tentacles stuck to the skin without using their hands, rinse the area with fresh seawater, and for severe pain apply either heat or cold. Any slightness of breath or altered conciousness should prompt a call for emergency medical help.