Flood-threatened residents return home after evacuation
Flood-threatened residents have returned to their homes after being evacuated over fears for their lives in the wake of the latest storm warnings.
Thousands were told to leave their properties as t he Environment Agency (EA) issued 17 severe warnings - which warn of danger to life - with those in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex feared to be most at risk.
But in the early hours of Saturday, the remaining residents of Jaywick, Essex, still in a rest centre were told they could return to their homes after no signs of flooding.
Residents on the east coast waited for the storm surge to hit during the second high tide, with gale-force winds and higher than usual tides expected to bring waves crashing over coastal defences.
Essex Police said the centre in Clacton saw 230 residents at its peak - but no one visited another site in West Mersea.
Deputy Chief Constable Matthew Horne defended the warnings to residents, saying they were grounded in science and advice from the EA and the Met Office.
He said: "We prepare for the worst case scenario and we would be happy to take the same decision again should we be faced with the same advice as we have had over the last 36 hours."
EA manager Claire Beecroft warned walkers to be wary on coastal paths and promenades with the "unsettled" weather continuing on Saturday.
The Met Office predicted a calmer period of weather but warned of ice in the West of England, Wales, Scotland and in Norfolk.
Many Jaywick residents had refused to leave their homes, despite an emergency services evacuation plan and pleas from Essex Police for them to move to safety.
Alison McGuire, who was among those to stay at home, said: "I did not think it would come over - I thought to myself, 'What is all the fuss about?'."
Great Yarmouth residents expressed their relief when their fears were not realised.
Jess Hudson, 19, of nearby Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk, said: "I didn't think it would be as bad as before (when floods hit in 2013) but people were worried and they'll be relieved the worst seems to have passed.
"I was surprised at the number of people who stayed in their homes when they were asked to leave. If it was me, I wouldn't want to risk that."
The Haven Bridge was one of the focal points for spectators as the pedestrian walkway was filled with people pointing their smartphone cameras towards the river - several feet short of breaching the walls.
The emergency services and Army were a frequent sight ahead of the predicted storm surge, but were called off as it appeared the area had swerved the worst of the weather.
The night was not without incident, however - with Norfolk Police charging a man with causing harassment, alarm or distress and obstruction of a police constable after jumping into the River Yare from Haven Bridge on Friday evening, despite being warned to move to safety by officers.
Stephen Wood, 43, of Great Yarmouth, was later plucked from the water and arrested. He will appear before magistrates in the town on Wednesday January 25.
The EA moved more than five miles of temporary barriers and 25 pumps to depots and towns along the east coast.
Doug Wilson, flood duty manager for the EA, said: "High tides and strong winds caused large waves along the east coast yesterday, bringing a risk of significant flooding and danger to life.
"The Environment Agency issued over 100 flood warnings, operated its permanent flood defences including the Thames Barrier and Hull Barrier, and set up temporary defences in areas at risk. These actions protected over 550,000 properties.
"In the event, the combination of the peak surge, strongest winds and largest waves didn't coincide in all areas and did not reach the most dangerous levels that were possible all along the east coast. Some properties in North and East Yorkshire were flooded and our thoughts are with those affected.
"Environment Agency teams are out on the ground today inspecting and repairing any damaged defences, and will continue to warn and inform the public of flood risks, as necessary. We wish to thank the emergency services, local authorities, the military and volunteers who worked with Environment Agency staff to prepare for this event."