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Watch now: Intense heat, humidity expected this weekend in Central Illinois

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Starting Friday and extending into early next week, ambient temperatures across Coles, Macon and McLean counties could touch the low to mid-90's and dew points could measure into the low to mid-70's.

BLOOMINGTON — For those in Central Illinois who swore off extreme precipitation and flash flooding late last month, your wish came true.

The storms are gone, but a shroud of intense heat and high humidity is set to settle over the region this weekend, bringing with it a wave of sweltry conditions. 

Starting Friday and extending into early next week, ambient temperatures across the region that includes McLean, Coles and Macon counties could touch the low- to mid-90s and dew points could measure into the low- to mid-70s.

Together, those conditions may produce a heat index of 95 to 105 degrees, meaning outside temperatures will feel like the low- to mid-100s, said Darrin Hansing, a service hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

"This is not record-breaking heat by any stretch," Hansing said. "Typically during summertime Central Illinois does get hot temperatures and increased humidity."    

The warmest July temperature on record for the region is 113 degrees, logged on July 15, 1936. Average temperatures for July range in the mid-80s.

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While this weekend's forecast may not be historic, it is timely. The elevated heat and humidity coincide with surging temperatures and raging wildfires across the western United States.

Jul.21 -- NOAA released these two satellite images showing the grey smoke (the white is cloud cover) from western fires that are enveloping most of the continental U.S.

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The fires have burned over 1.3 million acres and, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, over 20,700 firefighters and support workers have been deployed to handle the blaze.  

The NIFC is monitoring at least 78 fires burning in 13 states, with southern and central Idaho and Oregon, Northern California and the northern Rockies experiencing the worst of the flames. 

Despite the predicted heat and humidity, Hansing said Central Illinois is far from being at risk for field fires or wildfires, largely because soils, crops and other foliage are still wet from recent storms.

"We haven't seen a prolonged dry period and we'd still need some fairly sustained winds that could promote the spreading of wildfires," Hansing said. "So we're not quite at that point yet. But should these conditions continue the next few weeks, then we might see some chance of that."

Nonetheless, Central Illinois — including all of the Midwest and even the East Coast — is feeling the effects of the fires out west. 

Red suns and moons have been spotted across the state, as well as hazy skies.

The red sun, according to NWS meteorologist Brian Leatherwood, is due to increased particles in the atmosphere from the smoke or haze produced by the fires and brought over by the wind. Red is the only color that gets through these particles, producing a vibrant red sun.

The particles have also translated to an air quality index measure of "unhealthy for sensitive groups." And because of the upcoming increased humidity levels and reduced wind speeds, that rating will likely remain unchanged, Hansing said. 

To stay protected from the conditions and prevent heat exhaustion, heat stroke or dehydration, Hansing said people should avoid strenuous outdoor activity and spending prolonged periods outside in the direct sun. 

"You also want to drink plenty of water and check in on young and elderly people, who are more vulnerable to the heat," Hansing said. "And, of course, don't leave children or pets in your vehicle."

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report. 

Contact Timothy Eggert at (309) 820-3276. Follow him on Twitter: @TimothyMEggert


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