ST. LOUIS (AP) - A stretch of hot, humid weather is arriving in Missouri at just the wrong time, as Fourth of July events draw people out into the heat, often for extended periods of time.
The National Weather Service on Wednesday predicted temperatures well into the 90s for the period of today through Monday - Independence Day. Combined with high humidity, it will feel like 105 to 110 degrees in much of the state. The high temperatures are the latest batch of potentially dangerous weather for a state already besieged by tornadoes and flooding this year.
Hot, steamy weather in July in Missouri should come as no surprise. Still, officials are urging caution. The Weather Service has issued an excessive heat watch for much of the state.
"Typical summer weather in Missouri," said Butch Dye of the Weather Service office in suburban St. Louis. "More humid air is coming into the region, and it's going to get humid."
That will make for sweaty times at outdoor festivals like National Tom Sawyer Days in Hannibal - the largest annual draw in Mark Twain's hometown - and at Fair St. Louis, one of the largest Fourth of July festivals in the Midwest.
Bob Schenk of Fair St. Louis said extra water fountains and cooling stations will be available at the festival on the grounds of the Gateway Arch. There are plenty of trees for shade and the Arch and museum, both air-conditioned, will be open. A bus will serve as a cooling station, where people can get a respite of air-conditioning. Emergency workers will be on hand and two tents will provide on-site medical care.
Still, many of those attending the fair will be out in the sun watching the popular air show and concerts, visiting booths, and mingling in the crowd expected at tens of thousands each day.
"What we don't want to have happen is to get people overextended," Schenk said. "We recognize it's a long event and you could be out there 10 or 11 hours."
Schenk urged visitors to take commonsense precautions: Wear sunscreen and bring extra; drink a lot of water; wear hats and loose clothing.
The worst of the heat appears headed for western, central and southern Missouri, with Friday shaping up as the hottest day of the year so far.
Kansas City is expected to see highs of 99 degrees on Thursday, 96 on Friday and in the mid-90s through the weekend. Jefferson City is also expected to get to 99 degrees on Friday. Springfield could see a peak of 97 degrees on Friday with a drop of just a few degrees into next week.
Temperatures cool into the 80s or low 90s starting Tuesday.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said there have been 401 heat-related emergency room visits in the state since May 1, despite a relatively cool - and certainly wet - spring. There have been no heat-related deaths in 2011, but the state has reported 122 heat-related deaths from 2005 through 2010.