FIRST came the Siberian snap as snow, ice and gale force winds wreaked havoc across the south.

Now Hampshire has been placed on flood alert with a barrage of rain expected to sweep the county tomorrow.

Torrential downpours have been forecast around the region with 12 hours of heavy rain set to batter the south throughout the day.

Weather experts yesterday put 55 flood alerts across the south-east as clouds massed.

The bleak forecast comes after a series of roads in the New Forest were closed yesterday morning, as Hampshire was hit by the first batch of heavy rain. Among the routes shut by standing water were the B3055 at Sway and Balmer Lawn Road at Brockenhurst, while at Wickham in the Meon Valley the Southwick Road/Bridge Street junction with th4e A32 was also flooded. But Met Office forecasters and Environment Agency chiefs have warned that the worst of the rainfall is yet to come, with up to 20mm predicted for parts of Hampshire.

Alison Baptiste, the agency’s flood and coastal risk manager, said: “We have officers out checking flood defences and clearing any river blockages. We are receiving regular updates from the Met Office, and will continuously monitor river levels.

“Now is a good time for anyone who lives in an area vulnerable to flooding to think about the precautions they can take to protect their properties and I would encourage everybody to check their flood risk at the Environment Agency website and keep up to date on warnings.”

The words of caution come after lashing rain caused chaos in Hampshire last month, with fears the River Wallington near Fareham was about to burst its banks.

Highways teams have been put on red alert amid fears that the latest downpours could spark power cuts, topple trees, block drains and blow rainwater onto road surfaces.

Meanwhile civic chiefs have put their Emergency Planning Team on standby ahead of the onslaught of dismal weather, with the rain clouds due to open briefly in the early hours of this morning, before a prolonged deluge tomorrow.

Hampshire County Council's transport supremo, Cllr Mel Kendal, said: “Our highways teams are ready, with additional support from extra gully tankers, emergency response teams and tree crews on stand-by to help keep Hampshire moving, by dealing with flooding on our roads or setting up diversion routes if a road has to be closed.

“I would ask everyone to take particular care if they have to make a journey in these conditions.

“Spare a thought too for cyclists and any pedestrians walking along the road side, so that they are not showered by puddle water thrown up from the road by moving vehicles.”