Britain braced for floods as more torrential rain predicted

Parts of the UK were bracing themselves for flooding this weekend after predictions the torrential rain which claimed the life of one motorist would intensify tomorrow.

Heavy downpours in north-east England are believed to have led to the death of a 53-year-old woman on the North Yorkshire Moors yesterday when her Land Rover was washed down a swollen beck.

Forecasters are expecting tomorrow to bring fresh storms, especially in the east and south.

Today the Environment Agency had four flood warnings in force - on the River Went, in South Yorkshire, the upper River Hull in East Yorkshire, part of the River Ouse, in North Yorkshire and Lustrum Beck, in Co Durham.

But the agency said a further 60 floods watches were in place, covering a much wider area of England.

Weather forecasters said a broad band of heavy rain accompanied by strong winds would sweep across southern England starting overnight and into tomorrow, pushing northwards through the day.

Steve Ellison, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "It looks like there's going to be some pretty high rainfall, especially in the South and the East. There will also be some pretty strong winds." He said rainfall totals in the South East could top 30mm in some areas.

The Environment Agency said around 50 to 75mm of rain has already fallen in the southern region so far this week and the sodden ground across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight could lead to potential flooding from rivers.

It said the strong winds expected to accompany the heavy rain and high tides forecast for next week could also increase the risk of flooding along the region's coastline.

Andrew Gilham, flood and coastal risk manager for the Environment Agency's southern region, said: "We've had a lot of rain during this week and as a result the ground is now saturated and river levels have risen. Our staff are out in force working tirelessly to reduce any possible risk of flooding across the region.

"Now is an ideal time for anyone living in an area vulnerable to flooding to think about the steps they can take to protect their properties. By taking simple precautions we can limit the damage a flood can leave behind.

"We are receiving regular detailed forecasts from the Met Office, continuously monitoring river levels and have had officers out throughout the week checking river levels and clearing blockages to prepare for the rainfall.

The Met Office has issued advice that there is "a moderate risk of severe weather developing over England and Wales on Sunday".

The warning said a "prolonged spell of wet and windy weather was expected, with heavy rain falling on already saturated ground. The rain may also turn to snow at times over hills".

The woman who died yesterday was found in Hartoft Beck, in the heart of the North York Moors after a four hour search by divers, firefighters and an RAF helicopter.

The woman, from Beverley, East Yorkshire, is believed to have been crossing the raging stream using a ford when her 4x4 vehicle was swept downstream, coming to rest against a bridge.

There were widespread reports of flash flooding in the Yorkshire region yesterday with many roads in and around Scarborough badly flooded.

Other localised incidents were reported in the York, Selby and Malton areas.

But today North Yorkshire Fire Service said flooding calls had subsided overnight.