Drivers in some parts of the UK have been urged to stay off the roads as heavy rain and flooding brings chaos to road and rail networks.
Emergency services have reported having to rescue people stranded in their vehicles and in one incident up to 20 cars were stuck in flood water. Several major roads have also been closed due to flooding.
The Met Office has issued a yellow rain warning for the whole of Thursday, warning of “atrocious” conditions across an area stretching from Birmingham, Lincoln and Hull to north Wales, Liverpool and Manchester, as well as the east coast up to the Scottish border. At the same time, the Environment Agency issued 27 flood warnings and 104 flood alerts. Another warning will come into force at 3pm on Thursday until 6pm on Friday for the east coast of Scotland.
The Met Office warned that the heavy rain would bring a “small chance” of homes and businesses flooding and communities being temporarily cut off by flooded roads.
In West Sussex, the M23 was closed for several hours early on Thursday morning after standing water on the carriageway made it impassable in both directions between Junction 10 for Crawley and Junction 11 for Pease Pottage.
Also in West Sussex, motorists had to be rescued by the fire service after up to 20 cars were stranded in flood water on the A27 between Emsworth and Chichester. West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service tweeted: “Police on the scene and the road closed in both directions. We are attending with specialist equipment to help bring people to safety. AVOID THE AREA and only travel if necessary.”
It added: “We are extremely busy dealing with multiple flood-related incidents, including rescuing people from cars and flooding in buildings. Lots of localised flooding on roads across West Sussex, please take care tonight and only drive if absolutely necessary.”
The weather front hit Cornwall on Wednesday afternoon and is now sweeping north and eastward. It is expected to reach the east coast of Scotland by Friday evening. Met Office spokesperson Craig Snell said: “The warning areas are where we are most concerned about the risk of flooding but it doesn’t mean that the areas outside them are not going to see some pretty atrocious conditions.”
Mr Snell said a warning is in place for the southeast because “it has been quite wet there since the beginning of November with many places already seeing more than their month’s share of rain”. But he added Scotland could see “two days of persistent rain”.