DO not travel tonight (Friday) unless it is absolutely essential, Devon County Council has warned as torrential rain and winds up to 75 mph begin to batter the region. The Met Office has issued a Severe Weather Warning and is forecasting heavy rain plus g

DO not travel tonight (Friday) unless it is absolutely essential, Devon County Council has warned as torrential rain and winds up to 75 mph begin to batter the region.

The Met Office has issued a Severe Weather Warning and is forecasting heavy rain plus gale force winds for this evening.

There have so far been reports of run-off and surface water on roads across the county and partial flooding on the A377 a mile south of Bishops Tawton.

Rainfall has been persistent throughout most of today and heavier downpours are forecast to continue across the county into the early hours of tomorrow, with the possibility of up to 60 mm b(more than two inches) of rain.

County Council highways staff and contractor South West Highways have been preparing by clearing gullies and road drainage on main routes and at known flooding areas where possible.

Additional staff are also being drafted into the council's Highway Operations Control Centre over the weekend to co-ordinate any necessary response to disruption on the road network.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: "The forecast is a mixture of rain and strong winds which will make driving conditions very difficult.

"There could well be surface water on roads and water levels in fords and rivers will be higher than usual, so people should drive carefully.

Chris Cranston, Devon County Council's Highway Operations Manager, added: "The amount of rain and strength of winds forecast is giving us cause for concern, particularly on rural roads in the dark.

"We are as prepared as we can be to deal with any eventualities, but drivers must also be prepared for potential hazards and take extreme care as conditions will be unpredictable."

Motorists are being reminded of the following advice:

* Avoid overnight travel unless absolutely essential. Expect to encounter problems on the highway overnight, especially on the minor road network such as debris, fall branches and landslips.

* Do not drive through water if there is doubt over its depth.

* Avoid fords and Irish bridges (low water crossings) in these very wet conditions.

*In high winds beware of flying debris and avoid exposed locations in high-sided vehicles whenever possible.

* Allow extra time for your journey and reduce your speed.

* Listen to local radio for updates on current conditions.

* Drive with care and according to the conditions.

For information on local roads in Devon or to report a problem contact Devon County Council's Customer Service Centre on 0845 1551004.