Thousands of properties are at risk of flooding as Storm Christoph brings “significant” rainfall across large swathes of the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a Cobra crisis meeting on Wednesday after major incidents were declared in Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and Cheshire.
There are amber and yellow weather warnings in force until Thursday for the storm, which is also threatening to bring snow to northern areas.
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.
Downing Street has said Covid-secure facilities will be available for any people forced to evacuate as a result of the weather.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Preparations to create Covid-secure rest centres have been made. They have been made by relevant agencies as a precautionary measure.”
More than 120mm of rain has already fallen in parts of the country, with 123.42mm at Capel Curig in North Wales in the 24 hours up to 2pm on Wednesday.
Some 90 flood warnings have been issued by the Environment Agency across England, with 195 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.
The amber alert warns of the risk of flooding and deep floodwaters which could pose a risk to life, and there are further yellow warnings for snow and ice in Scotland.
Met Office forecaster Grahame Madge described Christoph as “quite a slow-moving system” which is bringing “a variety of weather” to the UK.
“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.”
Public Health England (PHE) has issued a cold weather alert for the north east, north west, and Yorkshire and the Humber from 9am on Thursday to Monday January 25.
Dr Owen Landeg, principal environmental public health scientist at PHE, urged people to “keep looking out” for frail or older neighbours and relatives, particularly those living alone or with a serious illness.
He said: “Make a call, or socially-distanced doorstep visit if they live close by, to remind them to try to heat their home to at least 18C (64.4 Fahrenheit) and to wear shoes with a good grip if they need to go outside.”
People were preparing for rising floodwaters in West Yorkshire on Wednesday morning, with towns in the Calder Valley laying out sandbags and flood wardens monitoring water levels.
A groundsman from a cricket pitch in the area has said he does not think he could handle it if flooding caused by Storm Christoph proves to be as bad as that witnessed last year.
Keith Hudson has been a groundsman at Bridgeholme CC, Todmorden, next to the River Calder, for 35 years.
Last February during storms Ciara and Dennis, the river’s banks “flattened” the ground’s concrete flood defences and almost entirely submerged the cricket pitch in water and debris.
“I really don’t think I could do it again… think it knocked years off me,” the 58-year-old told the PA news agency.
“(I’m) not overly worried at the mo as the river often gets high during heavy rain. Lived next to ground all my life, so I’m used to seeing it rise.”
Rail services have also been disrupted on the Northern network after tracks flooded.
There are suspensions on services from Carlisle to Skipton or Maryport, all destinations from Rotherham Central, and between Manchester and Newton le Willows.
Rail services between Warrington Central and Liverpool Lime Street, Altrincham to Chester, and Wigan to Southport are also suspended.
A spokesman for Northern said: “The difficult conditions are being experienced across a large part of our network and customers planning to travel today should be aware that any journeys could be affected and they should allow extra time for travel.”
As the week continues and Storm Christoph makes its way east, the risks then turn to snow, Mr Madge said.
“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,” he said.
“Over higher ground to begin with but increasingly those events will be to lower levels as well and that could lead to some accumulations in Scotland, northern England and parts of Northern Ireland.”