Communities threatened by floodwaters will enjoy some respite before rain returns to lash the UK during a washout weekend.

Some parts of the country may even enjoy a peek of sunshine, but that will disappear when the next band of rain comes into the South West and moves across the country later on Friday.

Forecasters say up to 45mm, almost 2ins, of rain could fall in the 24 hours from 6pm Friday, and the Environment Agency is warning people to be braced for more threats of flooding.

The threat will cause concern for hundreds of thousands of people who will be travelling this weekend for Christmas break. Motorists are being warned not to use flooded roads, and an AA spokesman said the service attended more than 320 breakdowns on Thursday due to vehicles getting stuck in floodwater.

Nearly 400 flood alerts and warnings are currently in place, the agency said, including 91 more serious flood warnings, focused on the South West, East Anglia, the Midlands and the North East.

The River Ouse in York is rising steadily, and levels are expected to peak late on Friday afternoon, while the nearby River Ure is also being monitored by Environment Agency staff as it rises. In Dorset the River Stour is rising and threatening farmland near Bournemouth.

Heavy rain swept England and Wales on Thursday, leaving residents on tenterhooks as river levels rose. But while large swathes of the country were on alert, there was no repeat of last month's flooding that caused widespread devastation.

In Wallington, Hampshire, there was a severe flood warning as the River Wallington threatened to burst its banks. Havant Borough Council evacuated 85 properties as a precaution, the Environment Agency said, and staff reinforced a flood wall which had shown signs of cracking. The wall held, and flood warnings for the area were removed as the levels receded.

In Cornwall, there was a minor landslide near Gorran Haven which left a tonne of soil blocking the road. In St Cleer, near Liskeard, one woman had to be rescued from her car after becoming trapped by floodwater, while a man became trapped after driving over a humpback bridge crossing the Bude Canal and found himself surrounded by fast-flowing and rising water, Cornwall Council said.

Andy Ratcliffe, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said rain had been confined to the North East and Scotland overnight, and that Friday would largely be dry. He added: "Through tomorrow the heavy pulse of rain will push north eastwards, and it will be patchy across much of England and Wales. It is a really unsettled picture, and over the next few days there will continue to be a pretty wide risk of flooding."