Arkansas temperatures will continue to soar today, with a forecast high peaking near 99 degrees Fahrenheit in the metro area and the heat index projected to range from 110 to 120 statewide, according to the National Weather Service's North Little Rock office.
This week's triple-digit index resulted from an expanding heat dome blanketing the Natural State from the west, weather service Senior Forecaster Willie Gilmore said.
A heat dome is a bubble-like, high pressure system that traps rising temperatures and humidity over areas for a period of time, Gilmore said.
Thomas Jones, a weather service meteorologist, said these conditions fuel the risk of heat-related illnesses for people without access to air conditioning.
"Most people expect it to be hot in the afternoon with a really high heat index, which is common," Jones said. "What really gets people into trouble is when it doesn't cool off at night."
In a news release, the Compassion Center in Little Rock said it was seeing "a significant increase in the number of people who need every kind of help."
"Their most pressing need is clean water, a place to eat and to get out of the heat," the shelter said in the release.
The shelter offers a cooling area when the temperatures reach into the mid to upper 90s and above, the release says.
"Water and cooling supplies are always available to those who need help," the shelter said in the release.
William Holloway, pastor and founder of the center, said the center is in desperate need of assistance and supplies to meet the increase in need.
"When people come in to get out of the heat it gives us an opportunity to offer them counseling, spiritual guidance along with food, clothing, and shelter," Holloway said. "We need hot weather supplies. [We need] bottled water, personal hygiene items, light clothing and food to replenish the food pantry. The center is also in desperate need of towels."
Little Rock residents can access cooling centers at the Dunbar Community Center at 1001 W. 16th St., the East Little Rock Community Center at 2500 E. Sixth St., the Southwest Community Center at 6401 Baseline Road and the Stephens Community Center at 3720 W. 18th St.
Each location will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday, according to a news release.
Jones said some relief from the heat will come Friday and over the weekend after the heat dome migrates west, back toward Arizona, causing a dip in temperatures.
A small cold front will also help, Jones said.
"That will allow us to get back into that northwest flow and with that, we'll have some slightly cooler weather."
Forecast temperatures for Friday are expected to fall in the mid to upper 80s with lows in the mid to upper 60s, Jones said. He said that daily temperature lows prior to Friday have landed in the lower 80s.
The cooler temperatures will come along with scattered showers and thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday due to systems created by the heat dome and the cold front, Jones said.
"There is some potential for large hail, but really it's the gusty winds that can accompany that are usually the main hazard," Jones said. "That's kind of what we saw over the last two to three weeks with complexes coming out of Kansas generally producing a lot of wind."