A futuristic flood warning system was being unveiled today in one of the areas worst affected in the October 2000 floods.

A sign in Lewes will give up-to-the-minute weather warnings to help people protect their homes, property and businesses.

It has been developed as a direct result of the devastation caused on October 12 2000, when the River Ouse burst its banks and flooded 800 properties.

The total cost of the damage, thought to run into millions of pounds, is still being counted, said an Environment Agency (EA) spokesman.

Working like a rotating advertising board, the sign will be controlled from the Agency's Sussex area office in Worthing.

It will display four warning codes - All Clear, Flood Watch, Flood Warning and Severe Flood Warning - and at other times show a view of the town's historic castle and a street map.

Sussex area manager Peter Midgley said: "Undoubtedly Lewes was hit by some of the country's worst floods on October 12, 2000.

"The fear that it could happen again is what brings people to the River Ouse at times of high flows, just to check the river with their own eyes to gain some level of reassurance."

On the new sign, he added: "Warnings can be issued to the public as soon as the agency knows that flooding is likely and, importantly, we can quickly reassure residents when the threat has passed."

The sign is the first of its kind in the country. It has been paid for jointly by the agency and business body Sussex Enterprise.