About 2,000 properties in Greater Manchester were being evacuated overnight due to flooding from Storm Christoph as heavy snow also hits the region.
Four severe “danger to life” warnings are in place in the North West, including in West Didsbury, East Didsbury and Northenden.
There’s also a severe flood warning in force at Bangor on Dee in northwest Wales, where the entire village has been ordered to leave their homes.
Police declared a major incident and told people to go to a local school and wait for emergency 4×4 vehicles rather than trying to leave on their own.
More than 180 “immediate action required” flood warnings are in force – mostly across the Midlands and North, as well as nearly 230 amber alerts.
In Great Manchester, police and firefighters were helping evacuate homes as assistant chief constable Nick Bailey warned a flood basin in Didsbury would “over-top in the next few hours”.
⚠️ @gmpolice & @EnvAgencyNW have announced a Severe Flood Warning covering parts of Didsbury, Chorlton & Northenden as levels of the River Mersey rise. ⚠️— Manchester City Council #StayHome #StaySafe (@ManCityCouncil) January 20, 2021
A Severe Flood Warning means we must act now & evacuations have started, focusing on those most vulnerable first.
“We have identified about 160 people that will be moved,” said Mr Bailey. “There will be provision at Wythenshawe Forum and hotels are being used.”
A spokesman for Manchester City Council said about 2,000 homes would be evacuated in total.
Twitter user @TonyCost posted in the early hours: “Our flats were low risk for the Mersey flooding when I checked earlier today – now they’re evacuating the ground floor, sirens, speakers, the lot. Scary stuff. Stay safe Didsbury/Northenden bunch.”
Snow has also been falling in the area, with others on social media calling the weather over the last few days “bonkers” and “absolutely bananas”.
Trains are also cancelled across the North West and people are being urged not to travel unless absolutely necessary, tweeted Manchester Piccadilly station.
North Wales has also had snow and some homes near the river in Ruthin, Denbighshire, have already flooded.
The fire brigade has been pumping water from the area and police tweeted that they were helping with evacuations.
“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,” police warned.
Dafydd Vaughan, who lives in the town, told Sky News the situation there was “unbelievable” and “bizarre” – with snow now compounding the flooding situation.
“The unbelievable thing we’ve had to deal with is that after these floods and horrendous torrential rain, it’s started snowing very heavily – everything’s covered in snow,” he said.
“Most of the hill roads are impassable because of snow and most of the lower land roads are impassable because of floods.”
Mr Vaughan said people had been laying sandbags, but that the water had already breached some homes.
“There are properties flooded at the moment and emergency services are there, the fire brigade’s there pumping flood water out of that area and back into the river.
“It looks like they’re successful but when the next high tide comes at around five o’clock we could be looking at a similar situation again.”
In Maghull, north of Liverpool, Sefton Council ordered people to leave their homes as soon as possible.
Water levels at Dover Brook, near the River Alt, reached an “unprecedented” 2.5m on Wednesday and overnight rain was set to push it to 3.5m, said a council spokesman.
The area was under a severe flood warning, but the Environment Agency downgraded it in the early hours.
⚠️Warning sign We have issued ANOTHER severe #flood warning for #Maghull ⚠️Warning sign which means a threat to life and significant disruption.— Env Agency NW (@EnvAgencyNW) January 20, 2021
We are working with the emergency services to keep communities to keep people safe. Updates Rightwards arrow https://t.co/uGQ4g6A5Xn pic.twitter.com/rtZHItTs22
Downing Street said Covid-19-secure facilities would be available for anyone forced to evacuate.
Boris Johnson held an emergency COBRA meeting on the situation on Wednesday.
He told reporters: “There are some times where I have been to scenes where, alas, people have decided not to obey the advice and not evacuated.
“It is their right not to do so if they choose – it’s always people’s right to stay wherever they are. But it really is advisable – follow the advice. If you are told to leave your home then you should do so.”
In Scotland, meanwhile, there is an amber warning for snow in the south of the country.
Up to 10cm is forecast to fall by 8 am on Thursday, with around 30cm possible in areas above 400m.
The Met Office has warned there will be further snow later in the week as Storm Christoph moves east, with accumulations expected northern England, Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland.