Forty flood warnings in force as west is hit by rain storms – again

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The Independent Online

More than 40 separate flood warnings from the Environment Agency were in force last night as heavy rains brought major problems to the west of the country.

A weekend of extreme weather saw icy conditions causing road chaos in the West Midlands, with ambulance crews in Worcestershire called to eight crashes in two hours yesterday morning. Parts of Scotland were faced with up to 10-15cm of snow due last night, leading forecasters to predict flooding as it melts.

Families in the west of England hard hit by last summer's floods face a new inundation today. Rapidly swelling water levels on the river Severn near Gloucester and Tewkesbury, which was turned into an island by flooding in July, are expected to peak this afternoon. Hundreds of acres are at risk.

Emergency barriers were placed along the riverfront at Upton upon Severn at 7pm on Friday and the river was expected to reach 4.7 metres last night, said the Environment Agency. It rose 1.83m between 8am Friday and 6pm yesterday, compared to a usual rise of 1m.

Further barriers have been placed at Shrewsbury and Worcester, along the Severn. They will remain up for the foreseeable future. A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: "We're not going to take them down until we have a clear idea of what the weather will bring."

Drinkers at the King's Head, which is on the Upton on Severn riverfront, said yesterday that they had become used to the flooding.

John Dean, 59, said: "We were going to have a competition for the rowing club tomorrow but the reason we cannot row is the speed of the water and the debris and trees."

Chris Lee, 57, said: "It costs £20,000 to put it [the barrier] up and £20,000 to take it down. It wants a permanent barrier, a brick wall."

Another warning is in place for the River Lyd at the town of Lydney, in southwest Gloucestershire, which was also badly affected last summer. About a dozen houses have already been inundated, including the home of John and Karen Pritchard, who were forced out only weeks after replacing floors damaged in July.

Chew Stoke Church Primary School, in Somerset, was evacuated on Friday afternoon after becoming marooned. Headteacher Sarah Fuller said: "The rain started to fall just after midday and it got very difficult to get cars in. We made the decision to close. The waters rose so dramatically that the only way in was over the gardens. The children had to be carried on their parents' backs or shoulders."

Also on Friday, the Forest of Dean suffered downpours – almost all the average rainfall for January fell in one day.

Wind and snow have added to the chaos. Roads were blocked yesterday and power lines brought down, leaving 700 homes in the Stroud area without electricity. Workers were unable to get to the spot to repair the damage because of flooding.

In Devon, a woman was saved after falling into the swollen River Avon, near Kingsbridge, while walking her dog. And an elderly couple were rescued after being trapped in their car in 3ft of floodwater near Axminster.