Strong-to-severe thunderstorms will be possible across central North Carolina this evening, with the main severe weather hazard being locally damaging wind gusts.

The storms will also signal the end of the more moderate temperatures of the past few days, as the highs climb back into the mid-to-upper 90s.

Those hot temperatures combined with high humidity will result in heat indices reaching 102 to 108 degrees across much of central North Carolina starting Friday and continuing into early next week.

The hottest heat indices are expected across the southern Piedmont, the Sandhills and the Coastal Plain.

There is chance of drizzle before 11 a.m. today, then a slight chance of showers between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., then scattered showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m.

Today's high will be near 88.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible before 2 a.m. Thursday, then isolated showers with a low around 73.

There is a slight chance of showers, then scattered showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. Thursday and scattered showers and thunderstorms before 10 p.m.

It will be mostly sunny, with a high near 93 with a low around 74 Thursday.

Friday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 96. The trend will continue through the weekend with partly sunny skies with a high near 95 on Saturday, near 94 on Sunday and near 93 on Monday.

"As the heat index goes up our bodies lose the natural ability to cool itself through evaporation which can lead to heat related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke," said Dr. Thaddeus West, who specializes in internal medicine at Wayne UNC Health Care.

"When we encounter extreme temperatures as we have seen this week, it is important that take precautions to help avoid a medical emergency."

When temperatures climb, it is important to remember to wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and hydrate early and often, he said.

"If you have to work outside during extreme heat, make sure to take breaks often and if possible plan to do the most strenuous work in the early hours of the day or later afternoon when the heat is not at its most intense," West said.

Children, older individuals, outdoor workers and those with chronic health conditions are most vulnerable to the heat.

"It is recommended that elderly individuals and any person with medical conditions related to lung and heart problems stay indoors in a cool environment while temperatures and humidity are high," West said.

Light-headedness, nausea, dizziness and weakness are some signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, he said.

"If you are exposed to the heat and begin to feel any of these symptoms, stop what you are doing, take a break out of the sun and hydrate yourself thoroughly," West said.

If the symptoms do not subside or progress to confusion, heavy or fast breathing, recurring nausea or vomiting, a weak pulse or if the person is not responding, seek medical attention right away, he said.

If you take medicines that can impede heat loss, speak with your physician about how to stay safe.

Such medicines include high blood pressure drugs, migraine drugs, allergy drugs, muscle spasm drugs, mental illness drugs and tranquilizers.

Ask for help if you have dry, hot skin, rapid pulse and high body temperature.

Drink more water than usual and don't wait until you are thirsty to drink, but avoid alcohol and sugary drinks.

Check on neighbors, and if working outdoors, check on your co-workers.

Never leave children or pets unattended in vehicles, especially during warm or hot weather, as temperature levels inside a car can reach a lethal level in a matter of minutes.

For more information on how to prevent heat-related health issues and to learn about heat-related illness in North Carolina, visit: http://publichealth.nc.gov/chronicdiseaseandinjury/heat.htm.