Communities preparing for floods

Ealing Times: Giant waves at Sunderland as the country is hit by gale force winds Giant waves at Sunderland as the country is hit by gale force winds

The persistent heavy downpours that have swamped much of the country are continuing with some areas expected to experience a whole month's rainfall in just 24 hours, weather experts say.

Communities across England and Wales are bracing themselves for the risk of floods from rivers and surface water as up to 100mm, almost four inches, of rain could fall by the end of the day, the Met Office said.

In England, the Environment Agency has issued 55 flood warnings for the South West, the Midlands, Wales, the North East and North West, and 164 less serious flood alerts in the South East and East Anglia.

The Pennines are likely to receive the heaviest rain, leading to an increased risk of flooding for communities around the rivers Aire and Calder. Strong winds are also expected to batter parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland, with gusts of up to 70mph along coastal areas later on Tuesday.

A significant number of flood warnings could be issued over the coming days as the wet weather looks set to persist over the UK until the middle of the week.

Tom Tobler, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said Wales and northern England would see much of the heaviest rain, adding: "Further south and east, and in central and southern England, there will be some sunny spells. But there will be heavy showers coming in along the south coast and Kent. The heavy rain will be across the north west and north east, and there will be a risk of flooding."

Mr Tobler said parts of England and Wales had experienced up to 50mm of rain up to 6pm on Monday, and a further 25mm to midnight, with 5mm falling every hour in many areas, adding: "It is the persistent nature of the rain, rather than it being torrential, so it just adds up."

The rain has already caused floods and travel chaos. The Environment Agency is urging people to be prepared for flooding, keep an eye on local weather reports and sign up to its flood warning service. People are also being urged to stay away from swollen rivers and not to attempt to drive through floodwater.

Six people had to be rescued from vehicles stranded in floodwater in the Skeeby and Whashton areas of North Yorkshire overnight, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said, adding it received more than 80 calls to incidents related to the heavy rain.

Rain caused flooding on roads across Tyneside and County Durham ahead of the main morning rush to work. A Durham Police spokeswoman said: "Due to persistent rain throughout the night, many roads in Durham and Darlington have been affected by flooding and some are currently impassable."

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