Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

Floods as UK faces stormy gales

The weather across southern Britain is set to improve after heavy rain on Saturday

Heavy rain and high winds have caused flooding in parts of southern Britain, as the year's worst storm is forecast for the start of the weekend.

A severe flood warning in place earlier for Christchurch Harbour in Dorset has been lifted, but many areas in southern England and Wales have seen flooding.

Winds in the south are due to peak at 80mph (129km/h) on Saturday morning.

The Met Office predicts a "brief respite" at the end of the weekend ahead of more storms next week.

The heavy rain forecast was expected to move north into southern Scotland overnight, which could cause localised flooding.

In Haywards Heath, West Sussex, people had to be rescued from four units on an industrial estate after being flooded by about 2ft (60cm) of water.

West Sussex Fire Service advised people to go up to the first floor of the premises, and sent rescuers to take people out on boats.

The service said it had dealt with nearly 40 weather-related calls in the Haywards Heath area on Friday, and near Crawley a tree caught fire after being brought down on to power lines.

High winds

Firefighters in mid and west Wales said they had attended 141 calls. Pembrokeshire was hardest hit by widespread flooding of its road network, trapping a number of people in their cars.

One woman was rescued after being stranded by floodwater at Milford Haven and in Haverfordwest 12 people were rescued from a coach.

Firefighters were also called out across Carmarthenshire and Swansea counties for incidents caused by high winds.

Meanwhile a lane was closed on the old Severn Bridge due to the fierce winds.

Other developments include:

  • In west Cornwall, there are reports of water up to 2ft (61cm) deep making some roads impassable. Water came over the sea wall at West Promenade in Penzance, flooding the street, while in Padstow several properties were reported to have been affected by flash floods
  • Some SeaFrance crossings from Dover to Calais and LD Lines services to Boulogne suffered delays on Friday. A Port of Dover spokesman warned passengers to expect disruptions
  • Brittany Ferries has cancelled sailings from Plymouth to Roscoff and Poole to Cherbourg, although its services from Portsmouth to the French ports of Caen and St Malo are not affected
  • A windsurfer had to be rescued from "treacherous" conditions after getting into difficulty at Bigbury, near Kingsbridge in south Devon
  • Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, was closed because of flooding and sewage contamination
  • In Guernsey, an activity centre for dementia sufferers at Castel Hospital was closed after heavy rain caused a ceiling collapse

By 0455 GMT on Saturday, the Environment Agency had lifted its severe flood warning for Dorset. Some 35 flood warnings remained - 18 in southern England, 11 in south west England and six in Wales - as well as 97 lower "flood watch" alerts across England and Wales.

The agency and Met Office are warning people living along the coast in Hampshire, West Sussex, Dorset and South Wales of a risk of sea flooding this weekend, due to high tides, strong winds and significant wave heights.

People should move valuables and irreplaceable items such as passports, certificates and wedding photos upstairs and out of the way
Councillor David Sparks
Local Government Association

Councillor David Sparks, of the Local Government Association, said: "People living by a river, coastal or flood risk area must be prepared.

"There are lots of precautions they can take. People should sign up to the Environment Agency's automated warning system, so they get a call the moment there is a risk their home could flood.

"People should also move all their valuables and irreplaceable items such as passports, certificates and wedding photos upstairs and out of the way."

The Met Office said it had recorded gusts of 78mph (125km/h) at Pembrey Sands in Carmarthenshire, while Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire had witnessed gusts of 68mph (109km/h).

Damage fears

Forecasts suggest there could be up to 75mm (3in) of rain on hills of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Wales, while much of the UK will see 25mm (1in).

BBC forecaster Tomasz Schafernaker said the weekend would have a "stormy first half" before quietening down by Sunday.

The Highways Agency urged drivers to check travel information before setting out.

AA driving expert Mark Peacock said: "Even experienced drivers can be caught out, so it's important to drive more cautiously and allow extra time for your journey."

The high winds could cause damage to trees, railway lines and bridges. Air travel could also be disrupted.

The Met Office website warns: "At this stage, forecasts suggest that there may be a brief respite at the end of the weekend ahead of more unsettled weather into next week."

Further updates are available on the BBC Weather website.

map show areas that will be affected by heavy rain

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Homes and roads hit by flooding
13 Nov 09 |  Wales
Heavy rain and gales cause chaos
13 Nov 09 |  Devon
Homes flood amid weather warning
13 Nov 09 |  England
Unit shut after ceiling collapse
13 Nov 09 |  Guernsey


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