Page last updated at 23:42 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Rain and snow spark flood alerts

Flood warning sign
Many councils are preparing sandbags and water pumps in case of flood

Heavy rain sweeping across parts of England has left many councils preparing for floods, while other areas are again contending with snow.

Up to two inches of rain is expected in some southern areas, where 57 flood warnings are currently in place.

Blizzard conditions are expected in Wales and the Midlands, as gale force winds whip up the snow and sleet.

Council emergency planning teams are on "full alert" for floods, according to the Local Government Association.

Bristol International Airport closed at 20:30 GMT amid deteriorating weather conditions and snowfall.

The A38 leading to the airport and the M4 second Severn Bridge were also shut because of ice.

Fire crews in East Sussex and West Sussex said they had received about 160 weather related calls since 1800 GMT.

Meanwhile, trains were disrupted by flooded tracks in Somerset and Wiltshire.

After a week which saw the UK's heaviest snowfall for 18 years, closing schools and crippling public transport, the rain has heightened the risk of flooding.

Monday brought at least an inch of rain to almost all of the south of England, with some areas expected to experience twice that amount.

Weather map 0600 Tuesday
There will be heavy-lying snow by tomorrow morning
Matt Taylor
BBC weather forecaster

By 23:25 GMT the Environment Agency had issued 57 flood warnings affecting homes and businesses near some rivers across southern England.

A further 135 areas in the South were on flood watch, meaning low lying land and roads could be affected.

Elsewhere, the agency is warning of flooding in coastal areas of north-eastern England and East Anglia.

Flooding closed the southbound exit of the M1 at junction 2, north of London, on Monday evening.

The Highways Agency was warning drivers to check routes across the south before travelling.

The A303 in Wiltshire was closed after a crash at Mere, where police reported water "coming off the fields like a river", while snow was blocking the A44 at Broadway, near Evesham in Worcestershire.

There were also problems on the rail network, with flooding causing delays to South West Trains and Cross Country services between London Waterloo and south coast destinations.

Virgin services to Manchester and the Midlands were subject to cancellations and delays.

Many local authorities are preparing sandbags, water pumps and generators in case of flooding.

'Be prepared'

Local Government Association Environment Board chairman, Cllr Paul Bettison, said: "Emergency planning teams are on full alert and ready to help people before flooding hits.

"If the floods are going to come in the middle of the night, when it's freezing cold outside, elderly and vulnerable people need to be moved early."

He urged people living by a river, coastal or flood-risk area to prepare themselves by moving valuables upstairs and signing up to the Environment Agency's automated warning system.

Rain has begun turning to snow over the west and southern Midlands and is forecast to spread north as far as Nottinghamshire overnight.

A tractor clearing snow
Some councils are switching focus from clearing snow to flood planning

BBC weather forecaster Matt Taylor said up to six inches (15cm) could fall in some areas, with gale force winds causing snow to drift and exacerbating already freezing temperatures.

"There will be heavy-lying snow by tomorrow morning - up to 5cm (2in) of snow generally but we could see 10cm in some places and 15cm on higher ground," he said.

Localised sleet and light snow in the north of England should have less of an impact, while Northern Ireland and Scotland should escape further significant snowfall.

However, it will be another freezing night in the Highlands, Mr Taylor added.

Sunday night saw temperatures drop to -18C (-0.4F), which the Met Office said was the lowest UK temperature since January 2003.

For those councils facing further snowfall, a lack of road salt is a concern, with the Highways Agency saying supplies are "very limited".

There was some relief in Scotland as a ship unloaded 6,000 tonnes of salt from Tarragona in Spain at Aberdeen harbour. The city's council said it was a scheduled delivery.

We had a further two inches of snow overnight, on top of the four inches of ice that has been accumulating since last Monday
Brendan, East Yorkshire

Another container ship is travelling from Spain, laden with a further 40,000 tonnes of salt, and a third is also heading to the UK with salt from Germany. Both are expected to dock on Wednesday.

Monday saw far fewer schools closed across the UK, although 55 were shut in Aberdeenshire.

There were 13 closed across Wales and eight in Bedfordshire, with just a handful shut in other local authority areas across southern England.

Meanwhile, the debate continues over whether last week's snow caused Britain to grind to a halt too easily.

The leader of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, Tim Jones, said too many schools and businesses had "panicked", costing the region's economy 40m.

In London, Tube workers are angry at being told they will not be paid if they failed to turn up for work during last week's heavy snow.

They have accused Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) of hypocrisy, given that all bus services in the capital and much of the Tube network were withdrawn last Monday.

TfL says it recognises the snow prevented some employees from getting to work that day but that the 100 who failed to arrive must provide a good reason for their absence or take annual or unpaid leave to compensate.

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