Joplin and the surrounding area is heading into a hot spell fueled by a mix of high temperatures and humidity levels, according to the National Weather Service at Springfield.

In response to the forecast, the city of Joplin announced today that its buildings are open to the public as cooling centers.

Today is predicted to have the highest heat index of the spell, which is expected to last through Sunday, according to Drew Albert, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Springfield. 

"The high will be 96 (degrees) this afternoon and the heat index is expected to get to 108 degrees," Albert said. Humidity levels of 50 to 51 percent are driving that heat index.

People who can should get out of the heat and delay outdoor work until a cooler time such as evening or morning, said Ryan Talken, assistant director of the Joplin Health Department.

"The health department is a cooling center along with other places," Talken said. "People who are needing a place to go are more than welcome to come here because heat stroke is a serious risk."

The health department is located at 321 W. Fourth St.

Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion along with hot, dry skin, profuse sweating and seizures, Talken said. High body temperature has the potential to be fatal if a person is not cooled down in a timely manner.

"Avoid working in the heat of day if possible and make sure you are drinking water," Talken said, adding that alcohol drinks and those containing caffeine are not recommended for hydration, although drinks with electrolytes in them are recommended.

"If there is an outside activity, it should be delayed to the end of the day when it cools down. If you don't have to do it in the heat of the day, try to delay to cooler times in the evening or morning," Talken said.

Albert said the low tonight is expected to be 76 degrees. Similar temperatures are forecast through Sunday. The high tomorrow is forecast at 95 with a heat index of 105 in the afternoon.  Highs on Friday and Saturday are expected to reach  96 with a heat index of 105. There will be a slight decrease Sunday with a high of 95 and a heat index of 102.

Albert said the heat wave should break on Monday when a cooler air mass moves through that should bring lower temperatures and heat indexes.

This week's temperatures are a little higher than usual, Albert said. The normal high for Joplin this time of the season is 91.

"We usually issue a heat advisory every year. Year to year its not untypical to see weather like this," sometime during the summer, Albert said.

In addition to the Joplin Health Department, other cooling centers available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.:

• City Hall, 602 South Main St.

• Dr. Donald Clark Public Safety Center, 303 E. Third St.

• Joplin Athletic Center, 3010 W. First St.

• Joplin Regional Airport, 7331 N. Highway 43.

The city said in a statement announcing the cooling centers that pet owners should make sure their animals have cool water and shade.