TORRENTIAL rain and exceptionally high tides sparked traffic chaos for thousands of commuters last night.

A section of Southampton’s busiest road had to be closed after a surge of seawater forced manhole covers loose and flooded the carriageway of Millbrook Road West.

Frustrated motorists were left stuck in huge tailbacks as emergency services had to move in to rescue stranded vehicles which had broken down in water up to two feet deep.

Elsewhere, Southampton Airport had to temporarily close its runway to planes as thunderous downpours made conditions unsafe.

The high spring tide caused the River Itchen to burst its banks at Riverside Park in Southampton, while the rain left floodwater lapping at the front doors of houses in St Cross Road in Winchester.

Flash floods caused the closure of the busy A33 Millbrook Road West and Mountbatten Way twice yesterday.

Heavy rain overnight meant it was closed in the morning, before the rising seawater combined with further downpours to flood the road again at around 6pm, with stunned onlookers saying it looked more like a lake.

The westbound carriageway was completely closed between Paynes Road and Regents Park Road, and two lanes shut eastbound while police, fire crews and city council staff worked to secure manhole covers and rescue two broken down vehicles.

Once the road was reopened, cars gingerly made their way through the water, while cyclists and pedestrians were left with no option but to get very wet feet.

Cyclist Jake Pearce, 26, said: “I should have brought my surfboard. I cycle along this road every day and have never seen anything like this.”

Bob Hopper, 60, from Millbrook, said the water was deeper than he had ever seen on Millbrook Road West. He said: “I’ve never seen this road flooded so badly in all my life.

“It looks like the drains in the main road have gone.”

Forecasters were predicting more heavy rain overnight, with flood warnings in place in Southampton, Hamble, Hythe, Marchwood, Eling, Beaulieu, Milford on Sea, Calshot and Gosport.