Strong winds brought traffic and travel disruption to Yorkshire today, and a state of emergency was declared as the east coast prepared for the biggest tidal surge in a generation.
Communities along the East Coast of the Humber were warned to brace themselves ahead of what is likely to be the region’s most serious coastal tidal surge for over 30 years.
This has led to a major incident being declared as emergency services and local authorities across the Humber prepare for an ingression of water during high tide periods.
People living in in the area around Blundell Park, Grimsby, the area in and around Humberston Fitties and Burrignham at Keadby Bridge have been told to prepare for flooding both from high tides tonight, around 7.45pm and the next tide tomorrow morning. Some people have already left their homes.
The fronts of Whitby and Scarborough have already flooded.
Tony Hunter, chief executive of North East Lincolnshire Council,said: “We know between us who the most vulnerable people are and so we have been concerned to ensure that arrangements for them to maintain their safety.”
In Grimsby 160 homes are at risk of flooding, with another 150 at risk in Paull, to the east of hull where a flood warning, a grade down from the severe flood warning has been issued.
Last night 17 flood warnings were in place, 11 for the Humber area, and another seven for the coastal area, including Withernsea, Hornsea and Bridlington.
A Multi-Agency team is continuing to meet to organise the response, with high-volume pumps, boats and rescue rafts, including from other fire services, on hand.
Innes Thomson, from the Environment Agency, said water levels may be quite similar to the 1953 floods which devastated the east coast of England.
But he said lessons had been learned from then and 2007, adding: “We actually have a huge amount more resilience because of the investment that’s been put in them.”
Earlier, in Leeds city centre, the junction around Bridgewater Place was closed as a precaution following recommendations made at an inquest into the death of Edward Slaney in 2011 - he was killed when a lorry was blown over in high winds, crushing him.
The Met Office has issued an ‘amber warning’, which will be in place until 4pm today.
Drivers of high-sided vehicles in particular are advised to avoid exposed routes and bridges.
Also, on the east coast – covering the Whitby, Scarborough and Filey areas in North Yorkshire – people were urged to keep away from sea walls, piers and other water fronts as heavy waves are expected to crash over the sea defences.
Two people have been killed as fierce winds battered the country.
A man died after he was struck by a falling tree in a park in Retford, Nottinghamshire and a lorry driver was killed when his HGV toppled on to a number of cars in West Lothian, Scotland.
The powerful storm has also led to the evacuation of thousands of families living on the east coast.
In Scarborough, today’s flooding was described as the worst for decades. Flood water has completely engulfed West Pier car park, as well as the RNLI station house. Waves have already reached protective sandbags dropped in front of arcades and attractions by Scarborough Council. Marine Drive has been shut down between Sandside Junction and Royal Albert Drive Junction due to flooding.
Officials at Leeds Grand Mosque told today how the building’s upper roof was blown off at around 7am due to strong winds, before detaching entirely later in the morning. The area was closed off for public safety.
At the city’s Trinity Leeds shopping centre, a nearby road was closed “as a precautionary measure” after wind blew loose some cladding at the side of the building.
At 2.30pm a machine was in place to keep the cladding secure and officials said the road would remain closed until winds die down and it is safe enough to fix the problem. A spokeswoman said no-one was hurt in the incident.
In Scarborough, where seven flood warnings are in place along the coastline, officials say anyone who goes near the shoreline or sea walls when high tide comes in from 4pm could be putting their life at risk.
The council says the combination of strong winds and high water are expected to lead to severe wave overtopping in some areas and that drivers should try to avoid seafront roads.
A spokesman said: “Pedestrians are strongly advised to stay away from flooded roads and footpaths and not take unnecessary risks such as ‘wave dodging’.”
Ben Hughes, the Environment Agency’s Incident Manager, said: “Coastal paths and promenades could be highly dangerous as there is an increased risk of being swept out to sea. People are warned to stay away from the shoreline.”
There are seven flood warnings currently in place along the Borough’s coastline. The various agencies are monitoring the situation closely and steps are being taken to minimise disruption and damage from flooding, should it occur.
North Yorkshire county council is closing roads blocked by debris and setting up necessary diversions. It has also closed schools and other properties that have been damaged or lost power as a result of the gales.
Elsewhere, the River Tyne in Newcastle burst its banks, flooding the surrounding area.
The pavement around the base of the Tyne Bridge, the Millennium Bridge and the city’s Crown Court were left completely under water.
Northumbria Police said they were reinforcing their earlier messages, warning people to take extra care in the current weather conditions.
A police spokesman said the places worst affected were Northumberland, North Tyneside and the Newcastle Quayside.
Sandbags could be seen outside shops and pubs in the centre of Newcastle to try to prevent the rising water from entering.
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Calvert said: “We recognise some members of the community will feel vulnerable at this time and officers, along with other agencies, are offering reassurance at every opportunity.
“Extra officers are on patrol in the areas expected to be worst hit.”
People quickly took to Twitter to post pictures of the floodwater as they tried to make their way home from work.
Thousands of train passengers in the north of England and Scotland were affected by reduced or cancelled services and the imposition of speed restrictions.
Among many services affected was Leeds-Doncaster where operations were disrupted by debris on overhead wires near Leeds.
The entire rail network in Scotland was suspended, with trains halted at their nearest stations and passengers told to disembark after Network Rail (NR) said debris on lines and damage to equipment meant it was not safe to operate any services.
NR spokesman Nick King said: “We cannot continue to run trains with the levels of wind we are seeing.”
Humberside Fire and Rescue said they had one of their busiest days since the floods of 2007 with 120 calls since 8am, many about dangerous structures. In Hull two cars were badly damaged when a rear wall of a building and adjacent roof collapsed in high winds. The owner of one of them had a remarkable escape as he was walking back to his car when it happened. On the M18 firecrews were treating an HGV truck driver after his truck was flipped over by the wind at 1.24pm between junctions seven and six. One the M181 an HGV overturned earlier and went into a dyke. The driver managed to get out by the time fire crews arrived. At 11.30am a tin roof blew off the roof of a business at Barrow Haven, lodging in a tree.
The bad weather also hit flights.
At Aberdeen airport, flights to Wick, Leeds Bradford and London City were among those that had to be cancelled, while at Leeds Bradford passengers were warned to expect delays.
Among Leeds Bradford flights that had to be axed were a Flybe service to Southampton, a BA flight to Heathrow and a KLM flight to Amsterdam.
The Environment Agency and Met Office are warning that gale-force winds, large waves and a tidal surge caused by low pressure will combine with high tides today and throughout Friday and to Saturday morning, bringing a risk of significant coastal flooding.
Police say North East Lincolnshire is most likely to be affected by the high tides leading to possible breaches of flood defences from Immingham and along the coastline to the Humberston Fitties.
A leaflet has now been issued along with advice for what people should be doing, including taking precautions in daylight hours as the flooding is likely to take place after 5pm when it is already dark.
A spokesman said: “Residents living in the areas of Immingham, Grimsby and Cleethorpes close to the River Humber and coast line are advised to start taking precautions.
“Emergency services and partners are continuing to monitor the likelihood and will ensure that vulnerable members of the community are prioritized.”
The Met Office has issued a wide range of weather warnings, with winds expected to gust to more than 80mph as they swing north-westerly in mid-morning, with gusts of more than 90mph in exposed parts.
Much of Scotland faces “be prepared” warnings for wind and lesser “be alert” warnings for snow, while north west and north east England, Yorkshire and Humber, the Midlands, and the east of England are under “be prepared” warnings.
Essex Police said parts of Jaywick, a small seaside village near Clacton, will be evacuated.
“Details of the areas affected are being confirmed and Essex Police will issue these as soon as possible. Residents living in other areas at risk of flooding should following the advice issued by the Environment Agency.
“Residents who may be evacuated are being encouraged to pack essential belongings and stay overnight with friends and relatives where possible.
“In the event that residents are not able to stay with friends and relatives they can go to evacuation assembly points from where they will be transported to a suitable rest centre, where they can take shelter overnight.”