An unrelenting and dangerous heat wave will expand across the South Central United States through this weekend and retain a firm grip on a part of the region well into late August.
An increasing number of communities will endure triple-digit heat through this weekend across the southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley as a strong ridge of high pressure builds eastward.
Oklahoma City will record its first 100-degree high of this year, while Dallas will endure its first stretch of triple-digit heat in excess of five days since August 2013.
Shreveport and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi, will be among the communities that challenge record highs this weekend. Showers and thunderstorms will first swing through the lower Mississippi Valley through Friday.
"This heat wave will be relentless day after day [across the South Central U.S.]," stated AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.
The worst of the heat wave, in terms of both high temperatures and humidity, will focus on the zone from eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma to Mississippi, according to Anderson.
"It will certainly be a dangerous situation with very high RealFeel® temperatures approaching 120 degrees on a daily basis," he added.
"The one thing is that it will not be quite as humid as recent heat waves since it has been dry recently, but many places will endure their hottest actual temperatures so far this year," continued Anderson.
Residents should still take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from suffering from heat exhaustion or a heat-related death. Remember never to leave a child or pet in a sealed vehicle when it is hot.
While complexes of thunderstorms led to a wetter-than-normal July to the north, most communities south of I-40 have had less than 50 percent of normal rainfall since July 10. Some places, including San Antonio, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana, have failed to record any measurable rain during that time.
"The soil moisture in Texas has dissipated since the late spring rain, and that is only amplifying the heat," stated AccuWeather Meteorologist Ben Noll.
Without needing to evaporate any moisture, all of the sun's energy goes to heating the surface.
There are signs that the ridge will ease its grip on the lower Mississippi Valley next week, while building to the north across the Plains, according to Noll.
"The heat will make it into the northern Plains and even the Canadian Prairie Provinces next week, which will be a marked contrast to the severe weather and cooler temperatures from this week," stated Noll.
The ridge, however, will maintain a firm hold on the southern Plains well into late August, causing the hot, dry weather pattern to persist.
"The ridge will continue to put a lid on thunderstorms and block tropical systems from attempting to track into the western Gulf Coast," added Anderson.
"That is not to say that there will not be a few complexes of thunderstorms in Oklahoma and Kansas, but compared to earlier in the month, the thunderstorm activity will back off for the middle to latter part of August," continued Noll.
The dry spell will lead to lawns drying up and dying, added stress on crops and lowering water levels. However, Noll does not anticipate that a prolonged drought is settling in with the return of wetter weather expected this fall.