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2012 set to be wettest on record
Forecasters have said 2012 is set to become the wettest year on record in the UK after predicting a wet and windy end to the year as flood-battered areas were warned they face renewed danger from storms.
According to the Met office just 1.8in (46mm) of rain is needed to fall before December 31 to make this year the wettest on record for the UK overall, with a new record already set for England with 43.1in (1,095.8mm) falling between January 1 and Boxing Day.
The UK as a whole had 50.8in (1,291.2mm) of rain from January 1 to December 26, with the wettest year on record for the UK currently 2000, when 52.6in (1,337.3mm) fell.
The figures came as people living in parts of Britain already hit by floods were told to expect more misery as another barrage of heavy rain comes in from the west.
MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said the entire country was set to be drenched by persistent rain sweeping in from the Atlantic coupled with winds of up to 85mph in the far north of Scotland.
On Wednesday the Environment Agency (EA) warned the west of the UK to prepare to take the brunt of the wet weather, with many areas still saturated with water from before Christmas, when floods forced many to flee their homes.
"The weather is set to remain unsettled into the weekend. With the ground still very wet, and river levels running high, any rain is likely to increase the risk of flooding," an EA spokeswoman said.
"There is also an ongoing risk of flooding from groundwater, particularly in Dorset, and some larger rivers like the Thames and Severn are still rising as they slowly respond to the recent downpours. As a result, we may see further flooding of low-lying land, such as flood plains and low-lying roads as the peak in river levels moves downstream."
The Met Office said new regional rainfall records have been set in several areas of England, including northern England (49.3in, 1,253mm), east and north east England (41in, 1,042.1mm), the Midlands (41.3in, 1,048.2mm), and East Anglia (31in, 788mm).
The recent heavy rain, coupled with late-running engineering work and other problems, meant a miserable return to work for rail travellers on Thursday. First Great Western said the main line in the South West, which has been closed since before Christmas because of flooding between Exeter St Davids and Tiverton, is expected to reopen on Saturday.