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Rain set to cause severe disruption


Britain was braced for severe disruption today with up to a month's rain set to fall in 24 hours.

Gloomy forecasts suggest the wet weather will continue to blight the summer as the Environment Agency issued nearly 90 flood alerts and warned of a "potential danger to life".

Heavy downpours are predicted to hit the Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales, raising fears that householders could be forced to flee their homes in a repeat of scenes last month - the wettest June on record.

Weather forecasters said up to 60mm of rain could hit central and northern England today. This is the same amount that would more usually be expected to fall over the course of an average July.

The deluges are expected to cause difficulties on the roads over the weekend and bring further devastation to areas which were badly hit only two weeks ago.

Events have already fallen victim to the inclement weather while a man using a mobility scooter had to be rescued from an underpass last night after he became stranded in water that was 3ft deep in Goole, East Yorkshire.

The Environment Agency said prolonged and very heavy rain could cause serious problems today across the north Midlands, far north-east of Wales and southern parts of northern England.

"In those areas where severe disruption is possible, there could be widespread flooding affecting significant numbers of properties and whole communities with a potential danger to life and a risk of motorists becoming stranded," it said.

Damage to buildings and structures was said to be "quite likely" in the worst areas and motorists were warned to expect travel disruption and possible road closures.

The Met Office issued an amber warning of severe weather for most regions in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland, including the Lothian and Borders and Strathclyde Police force areas.

The wet weather is predicted to compound the struggle of those recovering from last month's devastation, when areas such as Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, saw water levels reach waist height.

Forecasts of another bleak weekend came as the Prince of Wales visited flood victims in the town where it is estimated more than 200 households and domestic properties were badly affected.

Meanwhile, there were reports of flooding today in Howden and Rawcliffe, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service said.

Chris Burton, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the Press Association's weather division, said the conditions - caused by an area of low pressure - were "very unusual" for this time of year.

"We could see up to 50mm of rain fall quite widely over central and northern areas and, locally, we could see quite a lot more than that, with heavy, thundery downpours."

In some places, this could reach 60mm.

He added: "The rain will last much of the day and it is gradually spreading west. Tomorrow, we are looking at heavy showers in the afternoon across south-west England, the Midlands and the South East.

"Next week it is not going to get any drier."

The weather led to disappointment for revellers after organisers cancelled music festival MFEST following safety concerns.

The Human League, Texas, Bob Geldof and Cher Lloyd were all booked to play at the two-day concert at Harewood House in Leeds.

The Highways Agency said drivers could expect difficult journeys amid warnings the ground has become near-saturated in many areas.

The Environment Agency said the areas most likely to be hit by severe flooding include Derbyshire, Lancashire, South and West Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, Blackburn, Blackpool, Warrington, Cheshire and Halton.

There are currently three flood warnings for potential river flooding and 89 less serious flood alerts, but the Environment Agency said many more were likely to be issued today in the face of the torrential rain.

The agency also warned of surface water flooding when drains become overwhelmed by too much rain. The public has been warned to take care near floodwater and not to take risks walking or driving through floods.

Forecasters said large parts of northern England had already received 15-20 mm (0.6-0.8 inches) of rain, with some areas seeing as much as an inch of rainfall this morning.