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Country lashed by winter storm

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Households are being warned to protect themselves and their property as a severe winter storm sweeps across England and Wales causing flooding and power cuts.

As homeowners check their home insurance has flood cover, forecasters are predicting the heavy rain and snow will continue, with people in southern England bearing the brunt.

Some areas have already recorded close to their monthly average rainfall for February in just 24 hours, while 3,000 homes in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire have been left without electricity after further snowfall.

The Environment Agency had issued 95 flood warnings including one severe flood warning for the Rivers Chelmer and Can at Chelmsford in Essex. A further 177 less serious flood watches have been issued.

However, it said there are signs that the river levels in the South-West are beginning to fall reducing the risk of floods.

Craig Woolhouse, head of flood defences, said the flooding is a combination of melting snow, heavy rain and "tide-locking" of rivers caused by high tides off the southern coast.

© Press Association 2009