5.30PM UPDATE: Essex Police says as a precaution all streetlights will remain on throughout tonight and Saturday.
The village of Finchingfield was virtually underwater today as schools were closed and drivers have been left stranded by the rising flood water across much of north west Essex.
Heavy rain overnight caused chaos for motorists on the roads across the county this morning and disruption for parents as schools were forced to shut.
Five schools - Weathersfield Church of England Primary, Clavering Primary School near Saffron Walden, Newport Free Grammar, Newport Primary and Saffron Walden County High - closed because staff could not get to work.
Flooding in the north of the county forced drivers to seek alternative routes, with severe delays in Saffron Walden, Newport, Wendens Ambo, Debden, Stansted, Arkesden, Ashdon,Quendon and Henham.
On the A120 at Bradwell there have been long westbound delays back past Coggeshall and eastbound to the A131 at Braintree.
There was heavy traffic on A120 in Braintree due to flooding and White Notley rail station was also flooded.
Fire crews have dealt at least 70 incidents including the rescue of 10 people and two dogs from a block of flats affected by the flooding in Saffron Walden.
Crews have also been pumping water from flooded homes and rescuing motorists trapped in flood water.
Flood warnings have since been issued by the environment agency for the Rivers Pant, from Great Bardfield to Braintree and the Wid from Ingatestone to Writtle
Earlier, on the roads this morning:
- Firefighters were called to a vehicle trapped in flood water under a railway bridge in Cambridge Road, Newport at around 8.30pm.
- Reported severe delays on the M11 between J8, A120 (Bishops Stortford) and J9 (Saffron Walden) due to an earlier accident, and as a result of flooding on the carriageway.
- For those travelling clockwise on the M25 one lane is blocked between the M11 junction and the turn-off onto the Brook Street roundabout as a result of flooding causing severe traffic build-up.
- The impact of floods can also be seen on the northbound A130 at the Boreham Interchange, the A1017 in Baythorne End and the A1124 Blue Bridge in Halstead which is partially blocked.
- Flooding is now reported to have left Maldon Road in Bradwell-on-Sea blocked at the Maldon Road junction.
- Excess surface water is also starting to cause problems on the B1053 in Finchingfield at The Causeway junction.
Essex Police has also issued the following advice to those affected by the widespread disruption
- Many cars will start to float in as little as 12 inches of water. This can be extremely dangerous; as the wheels lose grip, and you will lose control - with the obvious risks and consequences.
- The engine air intake on many cars is low down at the front of the car; just an egg cupful of water ingested into the combustion chamber is sufficient to destroy an engine.
- Water does not compress, resulting in bent or broken con rods or split engine block. Driving too fast, even in relatively shallow water can cause water to be ingested.
- Even appropriate fording can cause costly damage. The catalytic converter, (part of the exhaust system) which works at extremely high temperatures, can crack upon contact with cold water, requiring costly replacement.
- Only drive through flood water if you know it's not too deep. This will be no deeper than the lowest part of the vehicle's bodywork, (usually the bottom of the spoiler (front panel) or sill panel, (below the doors).
- Do not attempt to drive through fast-moving water, such as at a flooded bridge approach - your car could easily be swept away, even at modest depths.
- With standing water, physically test the depth of the water with a pole (wade in, if necessary, but only where it is safe to do so), or observe the depth against other vehicles that cross successfully. (Just because they are successful does not mean it is appropriate to follow, see above). If in doubt....don't.
- If you have to drive through water, select a low gear so the engine revs are higher, slipping the clutch if necessary or, for automatic vehicle, select the lowest ratio and balance the throttle and brakes.
- Before entering, consider other drivers - pass through flooded sections one car at a time, don't drive through water against approaching fording vehicles.
- Drive slowly and steadily to avoid creating a large bow wave.
- Test your brakes as soon as you leave the water.
- If the worst happens and you break down: firstly, ensure the safety of all involved, including other road users. Do not repeatedly try to start the engine, (this may cause further damage). Call for recovery and wait in a safe place.