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50 flood warnings as fast thaw and heavy rain threatens to soak Britain (and no, building a snowman won't help...)

Flood warnings have been issued across much of the UK as ice starts to melt and forecasters warn of heavy rain sweeping across the country

Nearly 50 flood warnings are in place across Britain as the country prepares for a combination of heavy rain and a rapid thaw of snow and ice.

Flood warning have been issued across much of the UK as ice starts to melt and forecasters warn of heavy rain sweeping across the country.

Ice warnings remain in place in many areas as the cold weather continues to cause disruption.

However, with forecasters predicting heavy rain and a rapid thaw, attention is now turning to the threat of widespread flooding.

Before the warmer weather arrives in earnest there will be one last final hit of heavy snowfall tomorrow.

Some areas in the North of England could see up to 15cm with forecasters predicting the south could see up to 5cm.

As householders make preparations for the flooding the Environment Agency qualified comments attributed to one of their spokesmen that building snowmen could help stop floods by slowing down thawing.

Environment Agency spokesman Roy Stokes was quoted as saying: “Ideally if everybody built themselves a snowman it will slow the thaw down a bit.

“If you notice when people clear their drive the snow thaws away but the compacted piles stay.

“That would give a balanced thaw which would be helpful.”

The agency has since said that it is unlikely to make much difference.

A sharp increase in temperature, possibly reaching 10C in the South West on Sunday, is likely to spark a rapid thaw of ice and the Environment Agency has warned of the risk of minor localised flooding in some areas.

It is coupled with rain crossing the South West on Friday and further showers over parts of the UK at the weekend.

In Somerset, gritter crews have been working around the clock after nearly 15cm of snow fell in 24 hours.

In the worst incident, 30 people had to spend the night in a shelter after becoming stranded when the A39 between Bridgwater and Williton became impassable at around 1am.

The AA said it had attended more than 160,000 breakdowns since January 11.