DRIVERS and anyone out and about today (Friday) have been urged to take extra care, with up to three inches of rain forecast to fall across the region in the next few hours. The Environment Agency has called on people to be aware of possible flooding as t

DRIVERS and anyone out and about today (Friday) have been urged to take extra care, with up to three inches of rain forecast to fall across the region in the next few hours.

The Environment Agency has called on people to be aware of possible flooding as the Met Office is predicting periods of heavy rain into the weekend.

Initial forecasts show waves of heavy rain sweeping across Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and parts of South Gloucestershire from lunchtime today.

The ground is already relatively wet and rivers full of fresh water, so some rivers could rise quickly and put communities at risk of flooding.

A period of prolonged rainfall is predicted throughout Friday and then blustery showers on Saturday and Sunday. Early predictions indicate about two inches of rain could fall on low ground, and possibly three on the moors, with the heaviest falling between 12 and 6pm today.

The Agency warned this could affect the larger rivers on Saturday.

Environment Agency staff are on 24 hour alert receiving updates from the Met Office, continuously monitoring river levels and officers on the ground are on stand-by to check flood defences, clear river blockages and install flood barriers where necessary.

The rainfall could also lead to some localised flooding from runoff and drains unable to cope with the increased volumes of water. Environment Agency officers are also in close communication with local authorities and emergency services should there be any surface water flooding.

"These bands of rain could cause problems and we would urge people who live in homes that are vulnerable to flooding to start thinking about taking precautions to protect their properties," warned Ben Johnstone for the Environment Agency.

"People should also take action if they receive a flood warning and know what to do if they receive one."

The Environment Agency is reminding people to listen to local weather reports and updates in the media. They should also find out if they are at risk from river flooding by going to the Agency's website or calling Floodline on 0845 9 881188 or visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk.

"You can find advice on things you can do to limit the damage to your home at our website or by ringing Floodline if the worst was to happen," added Mr Johnstone.

"People should also stay away from rivers and not drive through flood water. They could be very high, fast flowing and dangerous. They should avoid trying to drive or walk through any flooding as you could end up in difficulties.

"People driving home this evening should take extra care not to drive through flood water as we know people can get stuck and have to be rescued by the emergency services.