Communities hit by last summer's flooding are facing the prospect of more chaos today after forecasters predicted a week of severe weather.

Rain began lashing parts of western England overnight, where fears of a repeat of last July's crisis are growing, with further wet weather expected later in the week.

Forecasters predicted up to 40mm of rain could fall in some parts of the South West by lunchtime. Gusts of up to 70mph were also predicted on the south coast. Many residents hit by last year's floods are sitting tight and regularly checking the weather forecasts.

West Mercia Police warned motorists in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire that localised flooding was likely. Sergeant John Roberts said: "With the ground already saturated and more rain predicted for this week, there is a high chance West Mercia will experience more localised flooding.

"If you come across a flooded road, do not attempt to cross it as you cannot judge how deep the water will get and what hidden hazards may be under the water."

In Upton-upon-Severn, flood barriers were keeping the River Severn from homes and properties. The Worcestershire town was one of those most severely affected by the summer floods. At the peak of the disaster, it was completely cut off and was accessible only by boat.

Sandbags have been placed in front of homes in Gloucester, Tewkesbury and several towns in the Forest of Dean.

The Environment Agency has put flood warnings in place at the River Severn between Worcester and Tewkesbury and from Tewkesbury to upstream of Gloucester.

Meanwhile, emergency services and councils are on stand-by and getting prepared for the worst. Gloucestershire County Council highway teams have been clearing debris from roads and inspecting the conditions of the region's highways ahead.

Flood warnings have remained in place since Friday, when flash flooding brought roads and railways to a standstill.
More than 30mm of rain fell on January 11 and travellers were delayed by motorway closures on the M5 and train diversions on the Great Western railway.  Last July, chaos hit western England and the Midlands after the worst flooding recorded since 1947.
More than 4,000 homes and 500 businesses across Gloucestershire were affected by flooding.

Many residents of flood-hit Tewkesbury still remain in caravans after being displaced from their homes.

Kelly Bartlett, chairman of the Longlevens Flood Committee in Gloucester, one of the city's worst-affected wards, said the council had begun last-ditch efforts to widen and deepen the brook which runs through her area and residents were busy lining the streets with sandbags.

She said: "We've only just moved back into our homes after the flooding last summer. On Friday we were fighting once again to save ourselves from flooding.

"It's ridiculous. We can't live like this, every time it rains we're running home to save our possessions."