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Heavy rain triggers flood alerts

Emergency services are responding to a surge in weather-related call-outs as heavy rainfall continues to blight communities - with the prospect of snowfall on the way in pockets of the UK.

The Environment Agency said heavy rain could lead to flooding in south west England, while snow further north is likely to cause significant travel disruption.

The Government agency said it was monitoring river levels and was expecting to issue flood alerts and possibly more serious flood warnings for the South West region.

And emergency services in the far west of England are already battling to keep on top of call levels. Cornwall Council has already set up a designated control room to handle calls.

Spokesman Dave Owens said the county's fire and rescue service received around 50 calls between 6pm and 9pm, with around 70 firefighters dealing with incidents across Cornwall. He said: "The main problem still appears to be surface water flooding which is continuing to affect a number of areas across Cornwall. There are reports of around eight properties flooded so far, although there are concerns at the rising water levels in Newlyn where the water is edging towards some commercial properties."

There are reports of flooding across the west of the county, including around Newlyn and Penzance, as well as in Mevagissey in mid-Cornwall - a community still recovering from the impact of last year's torrential downpours.

Police also warned motorists against driving. Sgt Dave Opara, based in Plymouth, said: "I would advise motorists not to make journeys that aren't absolutely necessary this evening. There has been a considerable amount of rainfall across the force area. There will be more to come throughout the night, so the situation is not going to get much better too soon."

A severe weather warning has been issued for rain in the region, with 1.6 to 2.4 inches set to fall over southern Devon and Cornwall in the next 24 hours, and up to 4 inches on exposed southern slopes.

Environment Agency spokesman Ben Johnstone said: "We strongly urge people to sign up to flood warnings on the Environment Agency website, keep a close eye on local weather forecasts and be prepared for possible flooding. We also ask that people stay safe and not try to wade or drive through any deep water."

While the South West is facing downpours and possible flooding, much of the rest of Britain faces a white weekend with widespread snow storms and strong winds predicted - a week away from the start of British Summer Time. The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for snow across many parts, with predictions of 4-6 inches possible in the north Midlands, north east Wales and north west England. High areas could see 8-16 inches of snow fall and strong and even gale force winds could lead to blizzard conditions, as the miserable March continues.

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