ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman reports on the flooding in Greater Manchester
Some 2,000 properties in Greater Manchester will be evacuated overnight due to flooding caused by Storm Christoph.
Police and firefighters were working with Manchester City Council to evacuate homes in East Didsbury, West Didsbury and Northenden on Wednesday evening.
People have also been asked to leave their homes in parts of Ruthin, North Wales, and Maghull in Merseyside due to rising floodwaters.
It comes as heavy rain and snow continues to fall across England and Wales, with many rivers at “dangerously high levels”, the Environment Agency said.
Four “severe” flood warnings, meaning there is a danger to life, have been issued by the agency for the River Mersey at Didsbury and Northenden, and in Maghull.
Amber and yellow weather warnings are in force until Thursday for the storm, which is also threatening to bring up to 30cm of snow to northern areas.
Parts of the UK could see two months’ worth of average rainfall in just two-and-a-half days, according to the Met Office.
Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable Nick Bailey said a flood basin in Didsbury, which takes water from the River Mersey, was full and would “over-top in the next few hours”.
“As a result, we will be issuing a flood warning to homes,” he said.
He said: “Unfortunately – despite the best efforts of all agencies involved – we are now at the stage where evacuations are necessary in areas of Didsbury.
“I think it’s important to stress that if you are contacted and advised to evacuate then we would strongly urge you to do so.”
The council said a Covid-safe emergency rest centre had been set up at leisure centre Wythenshawe Forum for anyone who was told to evacuate and had nowhere else to go.
A spokesman for the local authority said it is working with police, the fire service and the Environment Agency to evacuate homes "proactively evacuate homes before any flooding has taken place" adding that flooding is anticipated in the early hours of January 21.
He added: 'All flood basins have been opened, but river levels are expected to rise this evening and the decision has been made to evacuate people in a safe and controlled way this evening, rather than waiting to assess the flooding impact overnight.”
North Wales Police tweeted that its officers had been called to assist Denbighshire County Council and North Wales Fire & Rescue Service in Ruthin, where some homes were being evacuated.
North Wales Police tweeted: "Regrettably, people who do not live locally are driving to the area to 'see the floods'. Please do not stretch our resources by adding to the problem."
Meanwhile, residents in Maghull were advised to leave their properties as soon as possible after a severe flood warning was issued, Sefton Council said.
A council spokesman said heavy rain had led to raised water levels and flooding from the River Alt which was set to increase.
“Water levels at Dover Brook, near the River Alt, reached 2.5m today, which is unprecedented for that area, modelling from the Environment Agency, including anticipated overnight rainfall, will take that level to 3.5m,” the spokesman said.
A temporary rest centre has been set up at the Meadows Leisure Centre, the council said.
Cheshire Police said a major incident had been declared following the arrival of Storm Christoph.
The force said 33 residents of houseboats on Hayhurst Marina in Northwich had been evacuated and offered accommodation at nearby hotels due to concerns over the level of the River Weaver.
Superintendent Simon Parsonage said: "There are currently restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic but I want to stress that the safety of the public remains our priority and I urge anyone who is asked to evacuate to follow the guidance given so that we can ensure this is managed in a Covid-safe way."
There are 130 flood warnings across the country, most of them in the northern and central parts of England
Boris Johnson chaired a Cobra crisis meeting on Wednesday after major incidents were declared in Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire.
He had said every part of the UK would be “totally prepared” for any flooding caused by the adverse weather conditions after holding a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee.
The prime minister said: "We will make sure that we're totally prepared, every part of the UK, for flooding, just because...it's coming on top of the stress people are already under fighting Covid."
The Environment Agency has issued a further 130 flood warnings across England, with 225 less severe flood alerts, mainly across the Midlands and north of the country.
Almost the whole of England, Wales and Northern Ireland are subject to yellow weather warnings for rain until midday on Thursday, with a more serious amber warning stretching from the East Midlands to the Lake District.
Train operator Northern said torrential rain and flooding across the region had led to the closure of several rail routes, while others had suffered “significant disruption”.
Mr Johnson said the Cobra meeting focused on Manchester, where a "situation" is "potentially developing".
"We are looking at a pattern of rainfall, possibly not so bad this week but worse possibly next week."
He said steps were being taken to ensure the transport and energy networks were prepared so that electricity outages would not be "severe" and that there were sufficient supplies of sandbags.
He urged flood victims to obey advice to evacuate if told to do so.
A supermarket delivery driver had to be rescued from his van after it was swept away while apparently crossing a ford over the swollen River Wear at Westgate, County Durham.
Water specialists from Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service braved the fast-flowing water in a raft attached to a nearby footbridge and gave the man a life jacket.
In Suffolk, a driver in had a lucky escape when an oak tree landed on his Fiat 500 convertible.
He escaped uninjured despite the tree landing on the roof and the windscreen.
Honister Pass in Cumbria saw 77mm of rain between midnight and 6pm on Tuesday, according to Environment Agency figures.
Floodwaters have already risen in parts of the country, with a motorist pictured stranded in Leicester and parts of York were flooded after the River Ouse rose.
Teams in Doncaster were out on Wednesday morning handing out sandbags and cleaning highway gullies to reduce the impact on drainage systems.
The prime minister told the Commons: “Our sympathies also go out to those affected by the latest floods.
ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman is in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
“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.”
Simon Partridge, a Met Office forecaster, explained that Christoph was "not a traditional sort of storm" and that most of the disruption would be caused by rain.
“There are already parts of Cumbria that have already seen over 80mm of rain since midnight on Tuesday and there’s a large number of places that have seen 50mm, and we are going to see further rain over the next 24 to 36 hours," he said.
Mr Partridge said the storm meant that some areas could see double the average amount of monthly rainfall over a few days.
He said: “Those areas that have seen between 50mm and 70mm already, the warning is out until midday on Thursday, so an extremely long period, but by then we could see up to 150mm to possibly 200mm of rainfall.
“The Midlands for example, their average rainfall total for the whole month is 73mm, so they could easily get double that in the course of two, two and a half days.”
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.
As of 5am, the Environment Agency has issued 37 flood warnings and 167 less serious flood alerts across England.
A major incident was declared in both Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire ahead of the expected heavy rainfall.
North Yorkshire County Council said more than 15,000 sandbags were at the ready around the county.
Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) issued a cold weather alert from “first thing” on Thursday until 9am on January 25 for the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
The agency said the risk of flooding will amplify the public health risks of the severe cold weather.