The West was bracing itself for more heavy rain this afternoon after torrential downpours brought flooding chaos to the region yesterday.
Many villages and entire towns were effectively cut off as hundreds of roads were rendered impassable, with the Taunton area one of the early casualties.
All the West’s railway lines were affected, schools were closed with drivers rescued across Wiltshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Bristol and Somerset.
Avon Fire and Rescue rescued a woman in labour trapped in her home at Bishop Sutton, Somerset. Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue said they had been called to more than 50 incidents as 39mm of rain fell in a 12-hour period. They received more than 300 calls for help since 2am yesterday morning.
Fire chiefs in Wiltshire appealed for people to only contact them in an absolute emergency after being inundated with more than 60 calls in a couple of hours.
The village of Dinhams, near Ruishton, Somerset, sits just infront of the River Tone, which burst its banks. Daniel Hobson, 32, lives in a bungalow in the village and was concerned that more rainfall would cause his home to flood.
He said: “I woke up around 7am and there was a bit of a puddle out there and it has gradually got worse and worse as the day went on. Now it is literally lapping at my front door.
“I have sandbags there but they don’t seem to be doing a lot, when a fire engine went past earlier the wave it created sent the water over the sandbags and has left a nice little puddle in my hallway.
“I don’t have anywhere to go if it does flood either, I have two cats and a very excitable dog who absolutely loves the water, it would be a nightmare.”
Two large landslips were reported on the B3192 near Teignmouth Golf Club, Devon, and a further slide was reported on a train line near Chippenham.
Rail services also ground to a halt after lines were submerged and trains stranded. Passengers were warned not to travel unless necessary and those who did travel were told to expect delays of two hours.
Weather forecasters said the clear skies of yesterday afternoon and last night as the heavy rain band slowly moved away to the east were just a temporary respite – more heavy rain is predicted to lash the West Country later today and into the evening.
The deluge began on Tuesday evening and the first call to firefighters to rescue stricken motorists came late on Tuesday night from a driver in Holnest, near Sherborne on the Somerset-Dorset border, stuck in his car in floodwater.
But by early morning yesterday, scores of emergency call-outs to trapped motorists, flooded homes and businesses began to clog up all three blue-light services.
Fire crews rushed to rescue a woman who had gone into labour and was trapped in her home by floodwater in Bishop Sutton in north Somerset, while Avon Fire crews rescued an adult and four children, who were pulled out of flood water at Winford Bridge, in Chew Magna. The same crews also pulled motorists from cars on the flooded roads nearby.
Virtually every minor road and almost all A-roads across much of Somerset and west and north Wiltshire were blocked for hours as the heavy rain ran straight off already saturated fields, filled verges and flooded roads.
At Corston in north Wiltshire, the main A429 road was blocked at Kingway Bridge, while the Radnor Arms pub in the village, which had just replaced its carpets after a flood six weeks ago, found water rushing in from the flooded road outside.
The flooding came a bit later to Swindon and east Wiltshire, but by mid-afternoon police warned of problems on many roads, particularly to the north of the town.
The emergency call-outs peaked in Somerset by late morning and between 11am and 2pm yesterday fire crews in Wiltshire had answered more than 60 calls.
The main A361 road across east Somerset and west Wiltshire was blocked in several places, including between Semington and Trowbridge, just a few miles from a spot on the A350 near Melksham which was also blocked.
As water levels rose, around 17 schools in Somerset decided to close early, or not open at all – mainly because teachers were not able to get through flooded roads to work.
The primary school in Freshford, near Bath, closed at lunchtime because teachers had to scramble to extract their cars from the rising waters in the car park, and a wall collapse nearby also threatened the safety of children.
And in North Curry, near Taunton, both the school and the post office were badly hit. The school closed all day, as a school spokesman said: “The village and roads leading in are flooded and only a couple of staff members can get in.
“Also, parents cannot get the children through the floods. It is treacherous and the rain shows no sign of easing,” she added.
Spectacular scenes of a double waterfall created by torrential rain pouring through the railway tracks and through either side of an overbridge in Templecombe, Somerset, became a popular view on the video website Youtube but rail passengers could not appreciate the sight – First Great Western said that at one point seven of its lines around the West – including the main Swindon to South Wales railway, the line between Weston-super-Mare and Bristol, and the line between Bristol and Gloucester were either closed or had severe delays because of flooding.
Jason Humm, area highway manager in Gloucestershire, urged people to help unblock drains and gutters. He said: “If you’re passing a drain with leaves on, kick them off or sweep them away as this will help prevent blockages, or if you see any obstructions to the standing water which can easily be solved, and it is safe, then please help out.”
Homes in Woodmancote Park in Cheltenham were some of the quickest to be hit by the rising water. Resident Betty Denne, said: “It is going underneath the house and it is pouring down the side.”
Yesterday’s problems were largely due to run-off from the fields flooding roads, but soon the Environment Agency was warning of rivers bursting their banks – which some began to do by yesterday afternoon.
The agency issued more than 60 flood alerts and warnings for just about every river in the West, with the River Yeo in Congresbury, the River Avon in Malmesbury and the rest of north Wiltshire, and its tributary in Trowbridge the first to spill out of its banks.
Numerous events were cancelled yesterday as a result of the horrendous weather, including a Somerset county council meeting and the Christmas lights switch on in Plymouth.
Click here for the latest Somerset weather forecast.
For the latest information on flood warnings and alerts in the region, click on the Environment Agency panel below.
SOMERSET FLOODS (21/11/2012) - VIDEO AND PICTURES