Fears a tidal surge will hit the coast of Northern Ireland on Friday have led to severe flood warnings being issued and evacuation plans being prepared.
High tides, heavy rain and strong winds are expected to combine from midday to cause flooding across the country.
Residents in parts of East Belfast have been warned to pack their bags - particularly in the densely-packed residential streets of Sydenham which is set to get the worst of the flooding.
The PSNI were in talks with the fire service and Rivers Agency late on Thursday night, putting together plans to cope with the worst case scenario - evacuation.
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: “At present we are not recommending people to evacuate their homes or properties but we are keeping the situation under constant review.
"I would ask them, where possible, to think about moving valuables upstairs and packing a case so that, if we make a recommendation to evacuate, they are in a position to do so.
"Where possible, we would ask those people who are affected by flooding to go to friends and family outside the flood risk area."
Sydenham and the Docks area are deemed at 'high risk' of flooding.
Those in streets lower than the Holywood Road down to the Sydenham bypass, and streets around the Connsbrook River have been advised to make preparations.
Sandbags have been delivered to protect "key facilities and to bolster the existing defences", said ACC Martin.
But he warned residents to not remove sandbags for personal use as this would place homes in the area under an increased risk of flooding.
He added: “In general, over the weekend across Northern Ireland we would ask all members of the public to stay away from coastal paths and walkways and to drive with extreme caution.”
High tide is expected at around 12.10pm on Friday.
Other areas at risk include Newry and Newtownards, and to a lesser extent Larne, Newcastle, Strabane and Londonderry.
Police are coordinating a major planning operation involving the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, the Rivers Agency, Belfast Health Trust, Road Service, Northern Ireland Water, Northern Ireland Electricity, British Telecom and Translink.
The co-ordination group is looking at potential sites to provide evacuation relief if needs be.
The non-emergency police number is 0845 600 8000. However, if someone’s life is at risk due to flood water, ring 999.
The Belfast Health Trust will be identifying vulnerable members of the community and providing assistance to them.
UK weather: Batten down the hatches, Owen Paterson warns, as gales and rain storm in again
More than 50 ‘severe’ flood alerts have been issued – the Environment Agency’s highest category warning
By Tom Bawden
The extreme weather is set to continue, with driving rain, gale-force winds and high tides forecast to batter the UK on Friday and into the weekend, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has warned.
Advising Britons to batten down the hatches, Mr Paterson said the country was facing “exceptional weather”, as the Environment Agency issued 13 severe flood warnings across the south-west coast – the highest-level warning, defined as being so severe that it puts lives at risk.
After a stormy 10-day period in which more than 130,000 homes have already been flooded across the country, the agency has 107 flood warnings in place – where flooding is expected and remediate action recommended immediately. These are mainly in Wales, the South-east, the Midlands and the North -west.
A further 235 “flood alerts”, indicating a possibility of flooding, have also been issued.
The threat of floods is so severe that Mr Paterson on Thursday chaired a meeting of Cobra, the committee that brings together ministers, civil servants and others such as the police and Environment Agency at times of danger.
“The Environment Agency and local authorities are working hard in areas that could be affected and are ...ready to take any necessary actions,” Mr Paterson said. “I urge everyone in affected areas to sign up to the Environment Agency flood warnings and follow the advice they issue to protect themselves and their properties”.
Peter Fox, the agency’s head of strategy, said: “We are expecting flooding along the west and south coasts of England and Wales, due to a combination of strong winds, large waves and high tides, from the early hours of Friday and into the weekend.” He added: “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.”
As the prospect of further flooding loomed on Thursday, the search for a man washed out to sea was called off after the discovery of a body on the beach at Porthleven in Cornwall.
A 27-year-old man, from Surrey, disappeared early on New Year’s Day after he was hit by a powerful wave at Loe Bar near Porthleven. Police said formal identification has yet to take place.
Inspector Ian Milligan of Devon and Cornwall Police said: “The male was part of a group on holiday, five of whom went for a night swim. It was only when the other swimmers returned to the beach that they realised their friend was not with them.”
Separately, a woman drowned in the sea near Croyde, north Devon, on Tuesday. It is thought she had been swimming or surfing. The Coastguard is also searching for a man thought to have fallen into the River Stour, in Christchurch, Dorset.
The River Towy burst its banks in Carmarthen in Wales on Thursday morning, flooding a road. And in Liphook, Hampshire, 300 homes lost power after stormy weather brought down lines, although this left the number of houses without electricity well down on a peak of 300,000 over Christmas.
A man was taken to hospital on Tuesday after a tree fell on his car on the A21 in Orpington just after 5pm, and a number of people had to be rescued when a building partly collapsed in Hendon an hour earlier.
Should the heavy rainfall turn to snow storms this winter, MPs have said there should be a publicity campaign telling people that they should not avoid shovelling snow because of legal concerns.
In the past, some have been reluctant to help clear snow because they were afraid that they would be legally liable if anyone then slipped over on the patch they cleared.
The Department of Transport has a snow code that says: “it’s unlikely you’ll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries if you have cleared the path carefully” because people out walking have a responsibility to tread carefully.
But in a report published today, the Commons all-party Transport Committee says that not enough is done to publicise the code. Launching the report, Louise Ellman, who chairs the Transport Committee, urged: “More should be done to keep pavements clear of ice and snow. A national advertising campaign should highlight that the public can clear snow and ice from outside their homes without fear of legal action and should consider doing so.”