A major incident has been declared in Greater Manchester as Storm Christoph is set to bring widespread flooding, gales and snow to parts of the UK.
People are being urged to prepare as an amber weather warning for rain was issued by the Met Office for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for central northern England, affecting an area around Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, stretching down to Peterborough.
On Tuesday evening, Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey, Chair of the GM Strategic Coordination Group for Storm Christoph, said: "In order to ensure that we're as prepared as possible for the heavy rainfall expected from Storm Christoph, we have declared a major incident.
"The safety of the public is our number one priority and we're continuing to work alongside partner agencies across the region.
"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."
Another major incident has been declared in South Yorkshire, said Ros Jones, mayor of Doncaster.
In a tweet, Ms Jones said emergency protocols were instigated on Sunday, with sandbags handed out in flood-risk areas. She said plans would run alongside the region's Covid-19 response, adding: "I do not want people to panic, but flooding is possible so please be prepared."
As of 2pm on Tuesday, there are 14 flood warnings, meaning that flooding is expected, and 123 flood alerts, meaning that flooding is possible. However, it is expected for this number to increase significantly as rain falls overnight.
Latest from the Met Office
Met Office Chief Meteorologist Neil Armstrong, said on Tuesday afternoon:
“Storm Christoph will bring a mix of notable weather hazards across the UK over the next few days. Some locations in central Northern England and Wales could see a month’s rain fall in just a couple of days, with up to 200mm possible over higher ground, presenting a real threat of flooding.
“As the system moves away into the North Sea on Wednesday night and Thursday morning we start to see the potential for hazardous snow as cold air is pulled across the UK from the north west with up to 30cm possible in parts of Scotland. With cold air across the UK temperatures will drop as we move into the weekend with a return to overnight frosts for many.”
Environment Agency describe "volatile situation"
The Environment Agency described the combination of torrential rain and melting snow as a "volatile situation", as councils prepare for possible evacuations should a severe flood warning be issued.
Catherine Wright, acting executive director for flood and coastal risk management at the Environment Agency, said: "That rain is falling on very wet ground and so we are very concerned that it's a very volatile situation and we are expecting significant flooding to occur on the back of that weather."
She said the Environment Agency will be working with local authorities to help with evacuation efforts should a severe flood warning be issued, adding: "If you do need to evacuate then that is allowed within the Covid rules the Government has."
Craig Woolhouse, Flood Duty Manager at the Environment Agency, added: “We’re expecting surface and river water flooding to affect parts of northern England today and then northern, central and eastern England on Wednesday and Thursday, which could cause damage to buildings in some communities.
“Heavy downpours falling on already saturated ground may also cause flooding more widely across England from today until Saturday for slower responding rivers. Localised flooding on roads and land is also likely across central and southern England on Wednesday and Thursday.
“Environment Agency teams are out on the ground clearing grilles, screens, deploying temporary flood defences and closing flood barriers. We urge people to keep away from swollen rivers and not to drive through flood water – it is often deeper than it looks and just 30cm of flowing water is enough to float your car. "
Britain facing a "timeline of different hazards" this week
Met Office spokesman Oli Claydon said that rain is "initially" the main concern but the picture will change as low pressure could introduce colder air.
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."
Mr 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".
More rain to come
Heavy rain is expected to hit the UK overnight on Tuesday, with the Met Office warning homes and businesses are likely to be flooded, causing damage to some buildings.
It issued a "danger to life" warning due to fast-flowing or deep floodwater, while there is a "good chance" some communities may be cut off by flooded roads.
Up to 70mm is expected to fall but in isolated spots, particularly in the northern Peak District and parts of the southern Pennines, 200mm could be possible.
Highways England advised drivers to take extra care on motorways and major A roads, while the RAC breakdown service said motorists should only drive if absolutely necessary.
A yellow rain alert is also in place for most of northern England and Wales from Tuesday to Wednesday, while a yellow weather warning for snow and ice is in force in Scotland from Dundee to Elgin and across the east coast from Wednesday afternoon until midday on Thursday.
The Environment Agency issued 10 flood warnings covering parts of Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire as of Monday night, with a further 109 flood alerts, meaning flooding is possible, across northern England, the Midlands and the east.
Power cuts hit homes
Hundreds of homes were blacked out this morning as Storm Christoph swept in to batter Britain.
Houses were plunged into darkness with no power for heating or lights as the storm took hold. Children couldn't do home schooling because there was no electricity or broadband for their laptops.
The same problem hit people working from home.
Engineers were battling to restore supplies to 90 homes which were without electricity in and around Solihull, and another 60 were blacked out in Leicester.
Power cuts also hit almost 100 homes in Nottingham and around 90 in Alfreton, Derbyshire.
Two months rain in two days
Chief Meteorologist Dan Suri, said: “Following a cold spell where the main hazard was snow, our focus now turns to notably heavy rain moving across the UK this week.
"Some locations could see over 100mm of rain falling through the course just a couple of days with up to 200mm possible over higher ground."
By comparison, the average rainfall in West Yorkshire for the entire month of January is 90mm, while in Greater Manchester it is 103mm.
Watch: Northern England prepares for Storm Christoph