Householders and businesses are being warned to be vigilant as a period of “exceptional” weather is expected to hit western areas of the British Isles today.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who chaired a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee, warned heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 60mph are expected, prompting nearly 70 flood warnings.
He also urged energy network companies to be prepared for the storms after complaints that thousands of homes were left without power over Christmas.
Mr Paterson’s comments came as the body of a 27-year-old Surrey man was found on Porthleven Sands beach in Cornwall yesterday.
He had been swept out to sea on New Year’s Eve, having gone for a paddle with friends nearby.
The tragedy was the second in a matter of days after a woman died after being swept out to sea at the popular beauty spot Croyde Bay in north Devon on Tuesday.
Speaking on Sky News following the Cobra meeting in London yesterday, Mr Paterson said: “We are looking to have a combination of exceptional rain, wind and a surge in sea and high tides and so there are nearly 50 warnings put out around the whole of the West Coast and South Coast.”
No flood warnings have yet been issued in Yorkshire and the Humber although heavy rain and temperatures approaching 0C are forecast for Sunday in Leeds and Hull.
Communities in the south of England are, however, bracing for further deluges with severe flood warnings, where there is a threat to life or property, issued for coastal communities as strong winds combine with high tides and large waves from the early hours of today.
The flood risk will extend along the UK coastline from north west England, through Wales and south west and southern England.
In London, the Thames Barrier was closed to protect people and property along the river.
With more rain due to fall today, flood waters returned to Little Venice, in Kent, yesterday. The area had previously suffered over Christmas.
Sandbags were being deployed by Maidstone Borough Council and residents in some roads were being advised not to return to their homes until further notice.
Full forecast: Back Page.