The sight of purple flags flying in Destin, Florida today has many residents and visitors wondering what they signify. Purple flags are an uncommon sight on the beaches of the Florida panhandle, so their sudden appearance is creating quite a stir.
What Do Purple Flags Mean?
In the system of colored beach warning flags used along US coasts, a purple flag indicates the presence of dangerous marine life. The purple flag warns swimmers that venomous jellyfish, Portuguese man o’ war, stingrays, or other hazardous sea creatures have been spotted in the waters or washed up on the beach.
|Low hazard, calm conditions
|Medium hazard, moderate surf and/or currents
|High hazard, rough conditions, strong surf and/or currents
|Dangerous marine life
|Water closed to public
So the purple flags flying today in Destin indicate that jellyfish, Portuguese man o’ war, stingrays or other hazardous marine creatures have been reported in the area waters. Lifeguards advise beachgoers to exercise caution when entering the water with this warning in effect.
Why are Purple Flags Flying in Destin Today?
What has prompted the purple flag advisory for Destin beaches today? According to local reports, large numbers of Portuguese man o’ war have been spotted along the shoreline. These siphonophore creatures deliver an excruciating sting, so their presence warrants the purple flag caution.
Portuguese man o’ war are not uncommon in the Gulf of Mexico, but they are rarely seen in such high concentrations off Destin beaches. Their abundance today may be due to several environmental factors converging:
- Prevailing winds and currents: Man o’ war congregate near the ocean surface and drift with winds and currents. The right conditions recently may have carried them toward shore.
- Warmer ocean temperatures: Man o’ war seem to thrive in warmer waters, which expand their range. Climate change may be allowing them to move farther north.
- Reduced predators: The natural predators of man o’ war like sea turtles and ocean sunfish may have declined, allowing man o’ war to proliferate.
Experts will continue monitoring conditions over the coming days to determine if the high man o’ war numbers persist or were an isolated event. For now, beachgoers are advised to stay alert for these floating siphonophores marked by their balloon-like floats and trailing tentacles.
Dangers of Portuguese Man o’ War
The Portuguese man o’ war presents several hazards for swimmers and beachgoers when they are present in large numbers like today:
- Painful stings – The man o’ war’s tentacles can grow over 30 feet long and deliver venomous stings. These stings cause immediate, intense pain and raised welts on the skin.
- Allergic reactions – Some people may have severe allergic reactions to man o’ war stings, including breathing difficulties.
- Invisible in water – The man o’ wars’ transparent bodies and tentacles are very hard to see in the water.
- Stings on beach – Washed up tentacles clinging to the beach can still sting bare feet.
Anyone stung by a Portuguese man o’ war in Destin today should seek immediate medical attention, especially if they exhibit signs of allergic reaction like swelling or trouble breathing. Vinegar can help deactivate the venom if poured onto affected skin areas.
Are Destin Beaches Closed Today?
At this time, Destin beaches remain open to the public despite the purple flags. However, officials urge all visitors to exercise extreme caution when entering the water with the hazardous marine life warning in place.
Here are some tips for beachgoers today while the purple flags are flying:
- Stay completely out of the water if possible
- Avoid walking in shallow water areas
- Don’t let pets or children go in ocean or tidal pools
- Wear shoes or sandals when walking on wet sand
- Don’t touch jellyfish or man o’ wars, even if washed up
Lifeguards will continue monitoring beach conditions throughout the day. If the lifeguard stations raise double red flags, that would signify the beach is closed to swimming due to extreme hazard. For now, beachgoers should remain vigilant for man o’ wars and other stinging creatures in the water and on shore.
Long-Term Outlook for Destin Beaches
Looking ahead, experts say the purple flag advisory today could be a sign of more frequent jellyfish and stinging creature alerts for Destin in the future. Some contributing factors include:
|Influence on Stinging Sea Life
|Warmer ocean temps
|Allow hazardous creatures like man o’ wars to expand range farther north in Gulf of Mexico
|Increased nutrient pollution
|Can cause spikes in jellyfish populations
|Removal of prey animals like tuna allows jellyfish to thrive
|Destruction of mangroves and sea grass beds removes buffers and habitat
To reduce stinging sea life risk in the future, Destin officials may need to enact measures like improving water quality, protecting coastal wetlands, and regulating fishing. For now, beachgoers should heed any purple flag advisories and enjoy the beaches safely.
Purple flags flying at Destin beaches today mark an uncommon warning – dangerous marine life is present. Large numbers of Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish have been spotted in area waters, posing a painful stinging hazard to swimmers and beachgoers.
Experts say conditions like currents, warm water temperatures, and reduced predators likely converged to bring the man o’ wars close to shore now. While the beach remains open, all visitors should exercise extreme caution around the water’s edge and avoid swimming completely if possible.
Looking ahead, similar hazards could become more common at Destin beaches as climate change shifts conditions and sea life distributions in the Gulf of Mexico. But for today, the purple flags serve their purpose – alerting the public to take care in the water amid an influx of stinging Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish.