Prepare to be roasting — covered in nasty, gooey sweat — today as weather forecasters are predicting the hottest day of the year so far.

Today’s high temperature in Beckley is forecast to reach 89 degrees — and thermometers could easily rise by one degree, said Dave Marsalek, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston. Beckley has not officially reached the 90-degree mark at any time during 2007. The hottest temperature recorded this year is 87 degrees on July 9.

“(Today) would be the day,” Marsalek said.

Current hot temperatures are being caused by what is called an upper-level ridge, Marsalek said. These ridges are basically areas of high pressure in the atmosphere’s higher level that cause warmer air to fall to the surface. The ridge is not centered in West Virginia — but the Deep South, rather. The ridge is powerful enough, though, to affect temperatures nationwide.

“Obviously, it’s a very strong one,” he said.

High dewpoints will only aggravate the situation, according to Marsalek.

A dewpoint is the temperature at which air must be cooled for it to become water, or dew, according to Wikipedia. Humans react with discomfort to high dewpoints. Tuesday afternoon’s dewpoint maps from the National Weather Service indicated 75-degree dewpoint temperatures for West Virginia. Dewpoints above 70 degrees are considered “oppressive.”

“It will make it difficult to stay cool,” Marsalek said. “It will be uncomfortable because sweat does not evaporate as quickly.”

Marsalek noted there is always a risk of pop-up thunderstorms because of high moisture in the air combined with heat. But, having the ridge in place inhibits thunderstorm development.

“Which factor is going to win?” he said. “I wouldn’t count on seeing (a thunderstorm), but never say never.”

Marsalek advised anyone going outside in today’s heat to drink plenty of water. Although Beckley may have some cloud cover to help, he said those outside should still take plenty of breaks and avoid too many drinks with caffeine and sugar.

“Just drink straight-up water,” he said.

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Those who constantly work outside say they must stay on guard when the thermometer rises.

Capt. Kevin Price of the Beckley Fire Department said heat sometimes causes more fires caused by blown breakers, often from power companies being taxed. Noting each weather condition brings its own type of fire hazard, Price said firefighters do not seem to have an outright increase in fire reports this time of year.

“Heat doesn’t affect the frequency of fire,” he said.

But, firefighting in the heat is an extremely dangerous situation, Price noted.

“There’s no relief from the heat and humidity,” he said. “You’re going into a fire where it’s 500-700 degrees inside, and outside, there’s not much relief.”

Firefighters combat this situation by having other crews take over — and having those who have already gone inside put through “rehab,” Price said. Those firefighters can take off their gear — which weighs about 50 pounds — and breathing apparatuses and relax.

“You have to worry about heat exhaustion and heat strokes,” he said. “You will not do well by pushing yourself too much. At some point, the body says, ‘OK, I’m done.’ We don’t want that to happen. We want to be a solution to a problem instead of creating more problems.”

Cpl. R.E. Redden of the Beckley Police Department said that like all other K-9 officers, he must keep a watchful eye on his German Shepherd, Vinnie. Even though Redden and other K-9 officers wear all-black uniforms, half-to-quarter-inch thick bulletproof vests, duty belts with equipment and boots with thick “boot socks,” he noted the heat is much worse for the dogs.

“I really have to pay attention to Vinnie when he’s outside the vehicle because it’s worse for him than it is for me,” he said. “I have to give him plenty of water to keep him hydrated, and keep him inside the vehicle as much as possible — with the a/c and the fan on. I have to be mindful of where I park and try to park in the shade.”

“When it’s hot, you sweat the whole time you’re outside the vehicle — but you get used to it. You don’t even think about it. We wear this more than we do our street clothes.”

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Heat should be a constant through the week, Marsalek said, and the only relief in sight is a cold front coming into Beckley by either Friday or Saturday. However, that will only lower temperatures to the low-80s.

“It will be a moderate cool down — and we’ll be back to the mid-80s,” he said. “We’re not going to see any huge relief any time soon, like temperatures in the low to mid-70s.’

“It’s staying toasty. It’s a locked pattern that should stick around for a while.”

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