Boris Johnson has convened a Cobra meeting of top officials to take charge of the Government’s response to the chaos being wreaked by Storm Christoph.
Britain’s roads and railways were plunged into turmoil today as two months’ of rain began to bucket down within just 36 hours and caused heavy flooding.
The Met Office issued an amber weather warning and warned of possible disruption to water, gas and electricity supplies.
Some 49 flood warnings and 175 less serious flood alerts have been issued for areas by fast-flowing water, leading many to shore up their homes with sandbags.
The Prime Minister announced he will chair a crisis meeting this afternoon, and also committed to erecting Covid-secure centres should an evacuation be needed.
He told MPs: ‘Our sympathies also go out to those affected by the latest floods. I want to thank the Environment Agency and our emergency services for the work they’re doing to support those communities, and I’ll be chairing a Cobra meeting later on to co-ordinate the national response.’
The Army has been put on standby – although has not yet been deployed – and evacuation plans were being drawn up for the most at-risk areas, but officials stressed it remains a precaution at this stage.
Storm Christoph was already wreaking havoc on the roads early this morning, with high winds bringing an oak tree crashing down on a driver in Thurston, Suffolk.
In County Durham, rescue teams worked throughout the night to save a Morrisons delivery van that became stuck on a flooded road.
And on the M62 motorway in Yorkshire, a lorry tipped on to its side in the strong winds, causing road closures.
Merseyside Police even reported a crash after a van was seen ‘aquaplaining’ on standing water on the motorway.
The most serious weather warnings for have been issued in the Midlands and parts of northern England.
YORKSHIRE: A lorry tips over on the M62 motorway in the strong winds between junctions 21 (Milnrow) and 22 (Ripponden)
SOUTH WALES: A van on its side stuck in a stream in Mountain Ash, South Wales, as Storm Christoph hits the region with heavy rain today
MERSEYSIDE: A car sits stranded in flooded waters under a bridge in St Helens, where there are after flood warning signs and barriers
NORFOLK: Flooding at the highest level for the past ten years on Wednesday morning in Welney on the Norfolk-Cambridgeshire border
YORK: The River Ouse, which broke its banks on Monday, has been flooded York city centre
DEVON: Waves crash over the sea wall where a train steams along the Dawlish seafront in Devon
LEICESTERSHIRE: Flooding underneath the A46 at Six Hills Lane in Leicestershire, as Storm Christoph is set to bring widespread flooding, gales and snow to parts of the UK
The vehicle entered the water at Westgate in County Durham last night, prompting a difficult rescue for fire crews
The Morrisons truck was rescued and this morning made its way through the waters
Crews rescue Morrisons delivery van from floods in County Durham
Fire crews from across County Durham rescued a motorist whose vehicle went into the water at Westgate last night
This is the dramatic moment a supermarket delivery driver was rescued after his van flipped and careered off the road and got stuck in a fast-flowing ford.
Emergency services were called to reports at 5pm on Tuesday of a Morrisons van which had gotten stuck in a ford in Weardale, County Durham.
Firefighters and police from Bishop, Durham, Stanhope, and Middleton all rushed to the scene in a dramatic rescue mission.
When they arrived at Stanhope ford they found the Morrisons van had flipped to its side and the driver was sitting on top of the vehicle.
Bishop Auckland Fire Station said the rescue was ‘challenging’ due to the difficult conditions.
The van was later recovered from the water, the force confirmed.
A spokesperson said:’Difficult rescue in challenging conditions, great work all round.’
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the Army was ready to help but had not yet been raised.
Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, told MPs yesterday that its teams were out closing flood barriers and clearing drains.
He added: ‘There are no plans right now to evacuate, but that might be necessary and preparations are being made by the relevant agencies as a precaution.’
If the situation arises, Downing Street said Covid-secure evacuation centres would be made available to those forced to leave their homes as a result of flooding.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We are live to that issue, should evacuations be needed.
‘Preparations to create Covid-secure rest centres have been made. They have been made by relevant agencies as a precautionary measure.
‘We will ensure Covid-secure rest centres if they are needed.
‘The important message for the public now is to continue to monitor the information that the Environment Agency are providing and sign-up for flood alerts if they haven’t already.’
The pledge came as the assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester said up to 3,000 properties in the area could be affected by flooding caused by beset by flooding.
Speaking at an online press briefing, Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey said areas of Didsbury, Northenden and Sale near the River Mersey could potentially be affected by flooding, with a peak expected at 11pm on Wednesday.
He said: ‘The worst case scenario, estimated by the Environment Agency, is that it could impact on up to 3,000 properties across all the areas I have mentioned to varying degrees.
‘This is a significant incident in terms of disruption to people and those people have been advised with regard to action to take.’
The severity of the storm was laid bare by the Met Office, which warned that Britain was set to be besieged by the elements this week.
Spokesman Oli Claydon described the situation as ‘a timeline of different hazards as we go through the week but the first hazard is certainly of rain and that’s reflected in the warnings at the moment’.
He explained: ‘As we go through the week and the low pressure that is bringing these fronts of rainfall that are persistent and heavy over the next few days … as that low pressure moves east and out into the North Sea, the winds will become a thing really later in the week.
‘Also as the low pressure moves away it pulls down a north-westerly airflow which brings much colder air across the UK again which then presents a further risk of snow.’
The elements put paid to journeys across the UK today and proved too much for even the heftiest of vehicles.
On the M62 motorway in Yorkshire, a lorry tipped over in the strong winds and heavy rainfall.
In Suffolk, police tweeted a picture of a car that was crushed by a falling oak tree: ‘First casualty of the bad weather… this convertible Fiat 500 had an oak tree fall on top of him as he was driving along. Amazingly no injuries.’
Merseyside Police tweeted a picture of an upturned van that was ‘aquaplaining’ and said: ‘Please slow down and drive to the conditions.
‘We have just finished dealing with this RTC on the M57 were one driver lost control after aquaplaning on standing water in lane three. Fortunately on this occasion nobody was hurt.’
Mr Claydon also said: ‘It’s not going to be a short burst of bad weather like you may think of in terms of storms in the past where it quickly blows through overnight.
‘It’s really persistent heavy rain, the rain really is going to be persistent, just continuing all the way through today and tomorrow and into Thursday, it’s really just the prolonged accumulation of rainfall rather than a short come and gone weather event.’
More than 4.7in of rain has already fallen in parts of the country, with 4.9in at Honister Pass in Cumbria in the 24 hours up to 6am on Wednesday.
Nearby Seathwaite saw the second highest total, with 4.2in, and some isolated spots could see up to 7.9mm, the Met Office said.
On the M62 motorway in Yorkshire, a lorry tipped on to its side in the strong winds, causing road closures
A flooded train line in Walsden, Yorks, this morning, as the storm caused chaos on the nation’s transport infrastructure
Police watch the rising level of the River Roch in Rochdale as Storm Christoph brings heavy rains across Britain
The Government peppered a map of the UK with flood warnings, issuing 49 flood warnings and 175 less serious flood alerts
Westgate ford, in Weardale, County Durham, this morning after emergency services had to rescue a Morrisons delivery van driver when his vehicle got into difficulties while trying to cross
Naburn Lock Caravan Park was hit by on Tuesday. With more downpours predicted today South Yorkshire has declared a major incident, with the army on stand-by to assist in the worst-affected areas
The River Ouse in York city centre has broken its banks this morning as Storm Christoph begins to hit the UK
Sand bags placed against a door of a property in Hebden Bridge in the Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, in anticipation of Storm Christoph
Weather warnings for rain blanket England and Wales, with the Midlands and parts of the North set to be worse-hit. Snow and ice alerts are also in place for Scotland
SUFFOLK: Storm Christoph was already wreaking havoc on the roads this morning, with high winds bringing an oak tree crashing down on a driver in Thurston, Suffolk
Met Office forecaster Grahame Madge said the storm could bring snowfall later in the week.
He said: ‘While rain remains the main hazard in the south, further north we’ve got snow and ice remaining a risk.
‘The system will work its way through, we are expecting significant totals of rainfall and when you combine that with snowmelt it can lead to localised flooding across the affected regions.’
He added that ‘when Christoph starts to move into the North Sea we will start to see more northerly influence coming in, we’re going to have a feed of colder air which will bring in wintry showers’.
Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire said flood sirens in the village of Walsden in the west of the county had been activated, telling residents to turn off their utilities.
The council’s chief executive Robin Tuddenham later said no further activation of sirens was expected overnight as river levels were high but stable.
A major incident was also declared in Greater Manchester on Tuesday.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey, chairman of the GM Strategic Co-ordination Group for Storm Christoph, said: ‘Whilst we appreciate that everyone has been told to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic, we want to make it clear that should members of the public need to evacuate to protect themselves due to flooding then that is the priority and you should follow your local authority’s advice regarding evacuation.’
Floodwaters have already risen in parts of the country, with a motorist pictured stranded in Leicester, and workmen in York prepared flood defences on Tuesday morning near the city’s River Ouse.
A major incident had already been declared in South Yorkshire in anticipation of flooding that could arrive in the coming days.
Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones tweeted on Monday evening: ‘Key risk areas have been inspected over the past 36 hours, sand-bags have been handed out in flood-risk areas & will continue over the next 24 hours.’
A Highway Maintenance vehicle causes huge spray as it drives through the flooded Mountsorrel Lane in Leicestershire
A surfer makes the most of the big waves caused by the storm off Bournemouth beach, Dorset, today
A plane landing at Leeds from Belfast in the strong winds today
A vehice drives through heavy floodwater in Sedgebrook, Lincolnshire, and kicks up a massive spray
Broome Lane in East Goscote, Leicestershire, was flooded today as Storm Christoph unleashed on Britain
Flood wardens are inspecting the waters of the River Calder in North Yorkshire this morning as Britain braces for another day of downpours from Storm Christoph
On Tuesday, North Yorkshire Police and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service warned drivers not to take risks ahead of the expected weather.
A spokesperson said: ‘Just 60cm of standing water and 30cm of flowing water can be enough to float/move your vehicle. So please don’t take the risk!’
North Yorkshire County Council said more than 15,000 sandbags are at the ready around the county.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has advised people to check with councils to keep up to date with advice as the storm moves through.
The LGA said in a statement: ‘They will share flood warnings and other relevant information so people should make sure they regularly check their council’s website and social media and follow their advice.’
Floodwaters have already risen in parts of the country, with a motorist pictured stranded in Leicester, and workmen in York preparing flood defences on Tuesday morning near the city’s River Ouse.
Tuesday also saw disruption to transport, with Network Rail reporting delays and some line closures in the North West in the evening.
The storm has caused concern for people living in areas devastated by the floods at the end of 2019, who say they are preparing for the worst to happen again.
However, residents of Fishlake, South Yorkshire – which was cut off by the floodwaters just over a year ago, said they are much better prepared this time with many having sandbags dropped outside their properties on Tuesday.
Snow covered Drummond Castle Gardens, Perthshire as Storm Christoph hits the UK