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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 4 January, 2003, 18:23 GMT
Snow compounds flood misery
Pat Topham outside her home in Tempsford, Bedfordshire
Some residents have evacuated their homes
Plunging temperatures across the UK are bringing ice and snow to areas already suffering from recent floods.

The abrupt change in the weather brought two to three inches of snow on Saturday to areas of Kent, which was among the counties worst affected by flooding earlier this week.

Forecasters say harsher wintry conditions are expected next week, with temperatures falling well below zero.

We're absolutely devastated

Andy Hurman
Flood victim
The number of flood warnings in place across the UK has fallen to 68, with three severe flood warnings in Bedfordshire and Surrey.

The River Thames burst its banks in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, on Saturday.

Residents say it is the worst flooding they have seen for 30 years.

As local resident Andy Hurman surveyed the wreckage of his house under water, he told BBC News: "We're absolutely devastated. It's been a complete waste of the last few years of decorating."

More than 400 homes are flooded nationwide, including 100 in Chertsey, where the Thames burst its banks on Friday.

A couple in Tempsford in Bedfordshire were trapped in their home overnight as the force of floodwaters prevented fire services rescuing them until Saturday morning.

The cold weather means the flood threat is expected to ease but not before some areas experience further problems of snow and black ice.

Police said the cold snap had led to more than a dozen crashes across Kent in a matter of hours on Saturday, although none were fatal.

A van slid off the A59 near York and on to a railway line below, but no-one was hurt.

Inspector Mark Baldwin, of Kent Police, said main roads in the area were "a no-no".

"Ideally people should not go anywhere," he said.

"Wait and see what the weather is like. People are just not used to driving in the snow and they are driving really badly."

A van slid off the A59 near York and on to a railway line
Ice has added to driving dangers
The forecast for the rest of the weekend is dry and cold in the South East with hard frosts at night with temperatures falling to minus six in places.

Met Office forecasters said the wintry conditions look set to continue into next week.

The weather is expected to remain very cold and dry on Monday and Tuesday, with the risk of snow returning on Tuesday night and into Wednesday.

Already, hilly areas in the north of England, north Wales and Scotland have had up to five inches of snow as a result of the cold arctic air.

Gritted roads

Nigel Reed, head of the Met Office's operations centre, said: "This looks likely to be the coldest spell of the winter so far.

"We are carefully watching developments, particularly around the middle of next week when there is a possibility of significant snowfall."

The BBC's Rob McElwee said: "With no more rain due to come and some evaporation and run off it will be good news, unless they forget to get out and grit the roads and we end up with black ice."

The AA has reiterated the police warning about dangerous driving conditions.

A spokesman said: "People should drive slowly and carefully and be cautious of black ice, particularly if they are going out early."

For the latest information, the Environment Agency advises people to call Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"A few rivers could still peak in the next 24 hours"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
 UK floods
Are we prepared? Tell us your experiences

Talking PointFORUM
A house under flood watersFlood warnings
You asked the Environment Agency
See also:

04 Jan 03 | UK
03 Jan 03 | UK
03 Jan 03 | Politics
03 Jan 03 | Europe
31 Dec 02 | Business
03 Jan 03 | Scotland
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