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If you’re going to be on Hilton Head beaches Thursday, watch your step (seriously)

Nearly 100 Portuguese man-of-war washed up on shore Monday, according to the Hilton Head Island Beach Patrol.
Nearly 100 Portuguese man-of-war washed up on shore Monday, according to the Hilton Head Island Beach Patrol. Submitted

Strong winds predicted on Thursday could bring more Portuguese man-of-war to the shores of Hilton Head Island, according to officials.

Nearly 100 of the venomous creatures were spotted on Hilton Head Island beaches Monday, followed by fewer than 20 on Tuesday and none on Wednesday, according to Hilton Head Island Shore Beach Services.

But strong winds up to 30 mph are predicted Thursday, which could force more man-of-wars to float toward Hilton Head shores again.

“Heavy Southeast winds we had during the weekend probably blew those man-of-wars inshore and a west wind since then probably pushed them off shore again,” said David Whitaker, assistant deputy director of the state Marine Resources Division. “But we have another cold front coming in and (forecasters) are predicting strong winds out of the Southeast, so it’s conceivable we could have more (man-of-wars wash up).”

Whitaker, who initially believed the man-of-wars were less dangerous creatures called Vellela Vellelas, examined photos closer and confirmed that the creatures were most likely man-of-wars.

Man-of-wars are a vibrant blue and purple color and they deliver an extremely painful sting. The creatures float on top of the water, so beach-goers are urged to watch out for them before going into the ocean.

“They always have the bladders (referring to the rounded jelly-like portion of the man-of-war), so if you see those stay out of the water,” Whitaker said. “If the surf is rough and you see (man-of-wars) on shore, they could still be flopping around in the surf.”

“It might be better not to go in the water for a day or so until the winds change directions,” he said.

In response to the dozens of man-of-wars that washed up on Hilton Head shores the last few days, beach patrol crews have been burying the creatures in the sand.

“That’s what we’ve done in the past,” said Mike Wagner, operations manager at Hilton Head Island Shore Beach Services. “We want them out of the way where people can touch them, either purposefully or accidentally.”

According to Wagner, one person was stung by a man-of-war on Hilton Head Island on Monday. The person was treated at the scene and did not sustain any major injuries, he said.

Symptoms of a man-of-war sting include severe shooting pain described as a shock-like sensation and intense joint and muscle pain. Pain may be accompanied by headaches, chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Maggie Angst: 843-706-8137, @maggieangst

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