40 people injured by stingrays in Huntington Beach over weekend

It may be fall, but more beachgoers were injured by stingrays in Huntington Beach over the weekend than on some summer weekends, officials said.

About 40 people were stung in Surf City, compared with six in Newport Beach and none in Laguna Beach, authorities said Monday.

Eric Dieterman, marine safety lieutenant for the Huntington Beach Fire Department, said such injuries are not uncommon for October.

From January through September, 413 people suffered stingray injuries in Huntington Beach, Dieterman said. In October alone, 100 people were injured, he estimated.

“In Huntington Beach, we no longer have seasons. Everybody wants to come here,” Dieterman said.

Round stingrays, which are common in Southern California, are generally passive animals but can whip their tails and sting beachgoers on the ankle or top of the foot if stingrays are accidentally stepped on. The sting is rarely fatal but is quite painful.

Dieterman said the presence of stingrays and their effect on humans depend on variables such as the weather and tides.

“There are a lot of different variables that occur, and it’s not just a summer thing,” Dieterman said.

In Huntington Beach, stingrays usually stay and feed by river mouths, flood control channels or tidal inlets.

In Newport Beach, where stingray injuries were significantly higher this summer than last, the creatures usually are found by the piers and in Corona del Mar.

Newport Beach officials in August attributed an increase in stingray incidents to higher ocean temperatures — which tend to attract stingrays and encourage more beachgoers to get in the water — and calmer than normal surf, which often causes stingrays to venture closer to shore.

Six stingray-related injuries for a weekend is common for Newport Beach, lifeguard Battalion Chief Brent Jacobsen said Monday.

Dieterman said the large difference between the number of injuries in Huntington Beach and the other coastal cities over the weekend may be due to larger beach crowds in Huntington.

“Our density is a lot greater than theirs,” Dieterman said. “Here in Huntington Beach, we have people in the water every day, and on the weekends it’s just that much greater.”

Low tides, which make stingrays more susceptible to being stepped on, and “comfortable” water temperatures also could be to blame, he said.

“The lower tides are coinciding with people swimming during the day,” he said.

Dieterman said Huntington Beach lifeguards have been warning beachgoers about stingrays.

People who go in the water should shuffle their feet on the bottom to kick up sand and scare away the animals, he said.

If someone is stung, hot water is the best treatment, he advised. A doctor should check a deep sting for possible infection, he added.

Twitter: @BrittanyWoolsey