EMERGENCY crews were at full stretch this evening dealing with hundreds of flooding calls today as torrential rain swept the county.

By 1.35pm alone, the fire service said it had received 100 calls from Abingdon to Bloxham and was dealing with those affecting properties as a priority.

Homes were reported flooded in places as far apart as Marston and Witney, and Helmdon, near Banbury, to Sutton Courtenay.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is using specialist equipment to pump water from homes and helping residents to salvage furniture and personal belongings. It is being supported by the national Fire and Rescue Co-ordination Centre in West Yorkshire.

A high-volume pumping unit is being used at the Ladygrove Estate at Didcot.

Another pumping unit from Berkshire is pumping water from more than 300 homes in Bampton that have been affected by flood water. One hundred Bampton residents may have to be evacuated.

Anyone in the Bampton area who needs temporary accommodation should make their way to West Oxfordshire District Council's Elmfield offices in New Yatt Road in Witney or call 01993 705056 for advice.

The flood water has also affected the electricity supply in the area and 1,200 homes are without power.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was working with Thames Valley Police, the county council's emergency planners, Oxfordshire Highways and the Environment Agency to respond to as many incidents as possible.

More than 1,000 homes in the Cumnor and Farmoor area were without power from about 11.20am and drivers are facing chaos and disruption.

Flooding hit many roads and the Highways Agency urged drivers to slow down.

Only one lane was open in each direction on the M40 between Banbury and Bishop's Tachbrook, near Leamington Spa, due to flood water on the carriageway near Gaydon and the parallel B4100 was also barely passable due to widespread flooding.

Some drivers on the M40 were stuck for four hours in queues.

The A40 Oxford Northern bypass was closed eastbound between the Wolvercote and Headington roundabouts.

Among the other roads affected by flooding were the B4044 via Swinford toll bridge, Church Road in Radley, High Street in Cropredy, Main Street in Hanwell, the A4095/A4022 Woodgreen Hill junction in Witney, the Bicester bypass, the A421/A4421 junction near Finmere, the A43 north of junction 10 of the M40 at Ardley, the A420/A417 junction at Faringdon and all roads around Uffington.

The Bicester bypass was also badly affected.

Trains were also hit by the disruption, with no services running from Oxford and Banbury on Chiltern Railways to the West Midlands and the north.

The Cotswold Line is also flooded and Virgin's cross-country lines going through Oxfordshire have also been cancelled. The railway west of Didcot, towards Swindon, has also been affected by the floods.

First Great Western today advised passengers not to travel by train because of the extreme weather conditions.

Routes between Oxford, London Paddington and Bristol have been severely disrupted or cancelled due to the flash flooding across the South.

First Great Western spokesman Adrian Ruck said: "We are advising people not to travel by train this afternoon and this evening.

"The likelihood is that even if the flooding subsides, all our trains will be in the wrong places and there will still be severe delays."

Some schools, including the 1,000-pupil St Gregory the Great, in Cowley, Oxford, closed early.

Other schools closed included: Bampton Church of England Primary School, Beckley Church of England Primary School, Carterton Primary School, Cropredy Church of England Primary School, Ewelme Church of England (Aided) Primary School, Gosford Hill School Middle Barton School, North Leigh Church of England Primary School, South Stoke Primary School, The Warriner School, Bloxham.

Forecasters said the rain was expected to continue throughout the day with up to two inches of rain in the worst-affected areas.

Experts said an area of low pressure over Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire meant heavy rain would continue throughout the afternoon.

Met Office spokesman Barry Grommett said: "Oxfordshire is undoubtedly one of the worst affected areas in the country and that's why the severe weather warning has been issued.

He said there could be up to four inches in the worst-hit areas like the Cotswolds.

"That means the drains will be stressed and residents should be warned that there could be flash flooding. The rain should finally start to ease this evening.

"Tomorrow will not be totally dry but the rain will not be so prolonged. There will be some heavy showers in the afternoon."

A Highways Agency spokesman warned drivers to beware surface water on the roads, and to drive carefully, slowing down in the wet conditions and using their headlights.

The Environment Agency has issued 31 Flood Watches on the River Thames, with six in Oxfordshire including from St John's Lock, Lechlade to Eynsham Lock, and on the rivers Cherwell, Evenlode, Ock, Ray and Thame.

The Flood Watch warning tells residents that flooding of low lying lands and roads is expected.

The Goring and Streatley Regatta has been cancelled but other major events scheduled for the weekend are still on, including Fly to the Past at Blenheim Palace.