More rain for Devon and Cornwall as storms threaten Christmas holiday getaway
More wet weather is set to wash-out the final weekend before Christmas as thousands face disrupted road and rail journeys.
Vast swathes of the South West remain on flood alert during one of the wettest winters in recent memory.
Ten flood warnings and 56 flood alerts remained in place across the Westcountry last night following another week of heavy rain on already saturated ground.
Almost five inches of rain (120mm) has fallen in the past few days on sodden land in Devon and Cornwall, and forecasters have warned it will continue.
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Some 60mm – equal to half a month's rainfall – was set to fall in just 30 hours from midnight last night, which will be followed by more rain on Sunday and Monday.
An intense pulse of weather was set to bring the heaviest downpours – up to 35mm – in a six-hour period until 6am this morning.
But Christmas Day and Boxing Day are looking drier and slightly cooler, with sunshine set to make a festive return and just a few showers expected.
Police have urged the public to remain alert and stay safe this weekend, delaying their journeys when possible.
Devon and Cornwall councils said their staff remain on alert to respond to potential flooding and other emergency incidents.
An amber weather warning issued by the Exeter-based Met Office remains in place across Devon and Cornwall after the latest deluge fell once again on sodden ground.
A Met Office forecaster said: "All in all, it will be wet and breezy over the weekend. Saturday night into Sunday is looking slightly better, but more rain will return later in the day.
"Although the next spell of weather is nothing exceptional, the rain is virtually happening day after day which could lead to risks of flooding and travel disruption.
"The good news is that things will improve by the middle of Monday. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are not looking too bad at all."
The Environment Agency is warning Westcountry communities to remain vigilant and alert for flooding, which could affect roads and homes.
Mike Williams, of the Environment Agency, said: "We would urge people to take extra care when planning their journeys and we aware of the risk of flooding.
"Our teams have been out around the clock to minimise the risks and prepare for flooding."
Thousands of people from across the South West will travel on the roads, rail and by plane in one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Some 60% of AA members will drive their cars over the festive period after the service dealt with thousands of breakdowns yesterday.
Some 15,000 passengers are expected to use Exeter Airport and many more set to use Newquay's Airport following the recent closure of Land's End Airport.
Shoppers will descend on the region's town and city centres for last-minute Christmas shopping.
John Harvey, Exeter's City Centre manager said: "Although Christmas shopping is happening later and later every year, Exeter has been encouragingly busy in recent weeks. The wet weather has clearly had an impact, but it shouldn't dampen sales this weekend."
Firefighters were called to rescue three women from their cars in separate incidents in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset yesterday.
Strong winds are expected to sweep across the South West over the weekend, including gusts of up to 45mph on the coasts.
Temperatures will remain mild at 12 to 13 degrees Celsius this weekend before cooler temperatures in single figures during Christmas Day.