HEAVY rain is causing flooding chaos on south Cumbria's roads as the county's rivers are placed on flood alert and firefighters are called in to rescue people stranded after today's deluge.
Winds have also picked up in strength and police have urged motorists to avoid unnecessary journeys across South Lakeland and Furness, particularly in Coniston, Ulverston and Barrow.
Eight patients at St Mary's Hospice in Ford Park Crescent, Ulverston, were evacuated this afternoon after water from a beck in the gardens flooded inpatient bedrooms and offices.
Those patients that were well enough went home with members of the Hospice at Home team, a couple were sent to Furness General Hospital, Barrow, and the remainder went to St John's Hospice, Lancaster.
"The first thing always in our minds is patient safety and a decision was made to evacuate," said Chief Executive Sue McGraw. "The lights were flickering and we were really concerned about the electricity going off."
"We have patients on electrically controlled mattresses and we have oxygen plugged into walls."
"But our staff and volunteers were amazing and were here to make sure that the phones were answered and members of the emergency services got fed. It could have been a disaster but we are used to extreme situations and coped very well."
Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service also rescued a person from their vehicle after it became stranded in floodwater in Ulverston.
Fifteen children and staff from the town's Rascals Nursery, in Lund Terrace, had to be evacuated and moved to higher ground after the property was struck by severe flooding.
And St Mary's Hospice, on Ford Park Crescent, was also hit.
Firefighters had to pump water out of the garage and workshop of Ullswater Filling Station, in Glenridding, and were also called to scores of incidents elsewhere, including at Ambleside and Askam.
The A591 at Plantation Bridge, near Kendal, is flooded and there are also problems at various locations on the road between Windermere and Ambleside - between High Street and Borrans Road.
Parts of the A590 are just passable and officers reported 'serious flooding' at Lindal and asked drivers to avoid the area.
Other areas affected include Askam, Newby Bridge and the stretch of the A590 between Elliscales Roundabout in Dalton and Tank Square Roundabout in Ulverston.
Traffic was at a standstill on the A5092 at Greenodd, and the carriageway reported as being 'just passable' between the A590 and A5084 junctions.
Drivers reported flooding in Kendal, Oxenholme and Endmoor.
A power cut to 160 homes in Kirkby-in-Furness has also been exacerbated by flooding as Electricity North West engineers found it difficult to get onsite and make repairs.
Two teams are working with specialist equipment to find and fix the fault, with power expected to be restored by 10pm.
Train travel is also affected - Northern Rail has reported major disruption between Barrow, Whitehaven and Carlisle, and Barrow through to Preston and Lancaster.
Flooding between Askam and Barrow means all lines are blocked.
First TransPennine Express has also cancelled services, with no trains operating to or from Barrow.
Trains are terminating at Carnforth and no replacement buses are available due to the challenging road conditions.
Passengers are advised not to travel.
The rail company is advising customers travelling between Barrow and Carnforth not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
Cumbria County Council said it had received a 'large volume' of calls reporting flooding incidents and that its highways teams were out putting up flood warning boards and coning off areas where manhole covers have been pushed out of place by the force of the water.
The Environment Agency has issued flood alerts for the rivers Kent, Bela, Brathay, Rothay, Winster and the upper, lower and middle River Eden.
And a separate flood alert has also been placed on the area around the Upper Derwent, from Seathwaite to Derwentwater.
A Cumbria Police spokesman said: "Cumbria Police are urging all motorists to take extra care in this bad weather.
"Driving conditions have deteriorated as the county experiences heavy downpours this afternoon.
"Due to the amount of standing water that is currently on roads, particularly in areas of south Cumbria such as Barrow and Dalton, police are urging motorists to take extreme care, allow extra time for journeys and reduce their speed.
"Large amounts of standing water have been reported on roads off the A590, including Flass Lane in Barrow, between Spark Bridge and Bouth.
"Also at Soutergate, the minor fell road is closed due to a tree falling across the road
"In Ulverston there is flooding in the Ellers area and in Dalton the Market Street area is beginning to experience flooding.
"In West Cumbria, the A595 at Calder Bridge is flooded, with motorists being advised to seek alternative routes and areas in Whitehaven are beginning to flood.
"Parsonby, Aspatria, is also experiencing high water levels.
"Motorists are asked to slow down, take extra care and be particularly aware of motorcycles around them.
"Bikers are urged to take extra care when rounding bends and avoid travelling at high speeds."
Tonight's Upper Kent Neighbourhood Forum meeting, due to take place at St Oswald’s School in Burneside, has been cancelled because of the weather and will be re-scheduled for a later date.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: "Due to the recent rainfall and likelihood rain will continue through the rest of the week, Derwentwater level has started rising.
"At this moment in time we are not expecting it to rise significantly."
The Met Office said a spell of very wet and very windy weather is expected to move west to east across many parts of the UK today.
Coming so soon after the heavy rain which fell in places earlier in the week this is likely to provoke further issues with flooding.
Additionally, winds will gust to 50 to 60mph in places, and could exceed 70 mph in some exposed western areas.
The wet weather is forecast to last throughout the weekend, with 35.5mm of rain expected to fall in Cumbria today.
Flood warnings can be seen here.