Residents urged to leave amid 'threat to life' flood warnings
Lives could be at risk as severe flood warnings have been issued for parts of the east coast with residents urged to evacuate from their homes.
Three severe flood warnings - which warn of a danger to life - are in place for Friday lunchtime in coastal areas of Essex in the face of gale-force winds and high tides, while dozens of flood warnings have been imposed as the east coast braces itself for a storm surge.
The Environment Agency has warned that coastal communities in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex should be prepared for large waves and possible flooding.
Emergency services were putting an evacuation plan into action in Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea, with police officers going door-to-door informing residents of the evacuation, which is beginning at 7am on Friday.
Police in Suffolk have warned that more than a thousand households are likely to be moved to safety.
The Ministry of Defence said about 100 soldiers from the Catterick army base have been deployed to Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast where about 3,000 residents have been urged to leave their homes or move upstairs.
The three severe flood warnings are in place for Clacton to Lee Wick, West Mersea, The Strood and adjacent marshland, and Tidal River Stour at Mistley, including the Quay and The Walls, all in Essex.
Suffolk Police said s pecific areas of the coast have been identified as being at high risk of flooding - taking in around 1,100 properties which are likely to be evacuated.
At around midday on Friday the Environment Agency is anticipating severe flooding in Felixstowe Ferry and Bawdsey Quay, Felixstowe Ferry Hamlet and the Deben Marshes, isolated riverside properties on the Deben Estuary, and Tidal Orwell at Ipswich Quay.
At around 9pm on Friday there is severe flooding anticipated in Lowestoft seafront and docks, the north bank of Lake Lothing, Oulton Broad near Mutford Lock, Snape, Iken and surrounding marshland, and Southwold and surrounding marshes.
Norfolk Police has said floods are a strong possibility in the region, and the force is anticipating the worst to be in Yarmouth, Walcott, King's Lynn, Salthouse and Wells, between 7am and 10am, and 8pm to 10pm on Friday.
Mark Sitton-Kent, national duty manager at the Environment Agency, said: "Gale force winds and high tides are likely to create large and dangerous waves along parts of the east coast on Friday and Saturday.
"These conditions could also cause flooding to coastal roads and could impact properties.
"We understand that powerful tides can be dramatic, but please do not put yourself at unnecessary risk by going to the coast for a thrill or to take pictures. Please do not drive through flood water: just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car.
"We are prepared to take action wherever it is needed. We have moved resources and equipment to the coast and the Army is on standby to assist if needed."
Tidal gates on the east coast have been closed ahead of the high tides.
On Thursday, driving snow and high winds hit large parts of the country, disrupting travel and closing schools.
Heavy snow was lying across Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of England.
Severe weather warnings have been issued by the Met Office across swathes of the country for high winds, snow and ice.
Floods minister Therese Coffey said: "Our absolute priority is protecting lives, homes and businesses from the threat of coastal flooding currently facing the east coast.
"That is why we have soldiers on the ground helping to warn and evacuate people alongside the emergency services and Environment Agency teams, who are putting up temporary defences.
"We're working closely across government to monitor the situation as it develops and I ask people to check their flood risk, keep a close eye on updates and follow any advice from the Environment Agency and the emergency services."
There are fears that the weather conditions may also badly affect Tube and train services.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "A combination of staffing and maintenance cuts means that rail and Tube services are running on a knife edge at the best of times.
"Any adverse weather conditions are almost guaranteed to tip us over that edge."