Thousands of residents are “living on a knife edge” in fear of a mass evacuation as a month’s worth of rain threatens the UK in just 36 hours.
Major incidents have been declared in Manchester, Cheshire and South Yorkshire as Storm Christoph drenches Britain.
Many families have already fled their homes fearing a repeat of last February’s devastating floods.
But the Met Office has warned of “ weather hazards” with more bad news to come.
A second “dramatic” weather front is arriving in the UK next week bringing yet more rain.
Boris Johnson today chaired a Cobra crisis meeting as the MoD remained on standby to help.
In south Manchester up to 3,000 properties are at risk of flooding, police warned.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey said: “This is a significant incident in terms of disruption to the population.”
ACC Nick Bailey said those 3,000 properties may not have to evacuate, and authorities would work ‘right up to the last minute’ to prevent it.
Almost the whole of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are subject to yellow weather warnings for rain until midday tomorrow - Thursday.
But a more serious amber warning is stretching from the East Midlands to the Lake District.
The Environment Agency has issued 90 flood warnings and 201 less serious flood alerts across England.
In Hebden Bridge today tonnes of water swept down hillsides of Calder Valley in West Yorkshire.
Hebden Bridge’s volunteer Flood Wardens watched the rising torrent with growing unease.
As residents fitted flood gates to their doorways and piled sandbags around their homes, Chief Flood Warden Andrew Entwistle, 77, said: “We are on a knife edge. It could go either way.
“With the terrain here being so steep, the water, it literally just barrels down the hillsides. We try to stop it getting onto the main roads and into houses.
“You can understand the apprehension and the tension that is here. And with the pandemic as well, it is just misery on misery.”
Joseph and Gail Norris were today forced to flee their home near Hebden Bridge for a second time in 12 months.
The river had started lapping over a ten foot flood protection wall at the back of their property which they’d only just moved back into after last February’s floods.
Town Hall caretaker Joseph, 67, said: “If it comes over the top it will completely flood the property.”
“We have only been back in there for four weeks” he said.
Before leaving their home again, they piled sandbags up against their doors.
Mr Norris said: “If it happens it will be the fourth time for us so we are experienced flood people.
“We have stacked all the furniture up as best we can. We have taken everything upstairs, the best we can. and we have secured our flood defences the best we can. It is up to God now.”
Also watching nervously nearby was restaurant boss Raemzi Sasma, 43, who is still trying to get back on his feet being flooded a year ago.
After a huge clean-up, he was open for just a week before the country went into lockdown because of Covid-19.
Mr Sasma, who runs the Rendevous Bistro: “We can’t take much more. Hebden can’t take much more.
“I have been closed because of the virus and now this could make it worse.
“I’ve lifted everything off the floor and I have flood gates. They work a little bit but the water still gets through.”
Dario Mansouri, 54, who runs the Origano Pizza and Grill nearby, said: “I don’t have sandbags because the water just comes up from the ground and through the floor.
“The people who had it before me put a concrete floor in but still it comes in.
“I am praying it does not happen again.”
Others further south, locals in Darley Bridge, Derbys, were also worried as the raging River Derwent threatened to break its banks.
The owners of one home, which is undergoing renovation, activated a pump system to clear flood water from the basement.
There were also fears the Square and Compass pub, which was refurbished last year after floods in 2019, would succumb to the torrent of water.
One local told the Mirror: “We have got used to the risk of flooding because we live next to a river.
“But this time the warnings seem a lot more serious and the Environment Agency are telling us to move our belongings upstairs.
“The rain hasn’t been as bad as expected so far but they are saying tonight could be when we see the heavy stuff.
“We’re just praying we don’t get hit. It would be heartbreaking to have this happen on top of the pandemic.”
A flood warning was also issued for properties and businesses alongside the River Wye in nearby Bakewell.
Residents whose homes back onto the close footpath alongside the river used sandbags and plastic sheeting to protect their homes.
Sandbags were also in place outside shops in Matlock, which was eerily quiet as locals waited for the flooding.
Officials in Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire have declared a ‘major incident’ as rain batters the region threatening widespread flooding.
North Yorkshire County Council said more than 15,000 sandbags were at the ready around the county and Doncaster Council said they’d handed out 40,000 sandbags.
Residents have been barricading their properties in Doncaster in Fishlake and Bentley fearing they could be hit again too.
The Met Office’s Grahame Madge told The Mirror today said they are expecting to see up to 200mm of rain, a month’s worth in 36 hours.
He said the rain is currently moving eastwards adding: “We are concerned that the river levels could rise dramatically.
“The January rainfall for the UK is an average of 121mm. Derbyshire normally sees on average 91mm but has had 109 per cent of its month rainfall so far.”
He said the average for South Yorkshire is 69mm.
“It has been a wet month so far and next week there will be another dramatic change with the atlantic dominated weather bringing more rain.”
Met Office Chief Meteorologist Neil Armstrong, said: “Storm Christoph will bring a mix of notable weather hazards across the UK over the next few days.
“Some locations in central Northern England and Wales could see a month’s rainfall in just a couple of days, with up to 200mm possible over higher ground, presenting a real threat of flooding.”
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions today, Boris Johnson told MPs: “Our sympathies also go out to those affected by the latest floods.
“I want to thank the Environment Agency and our emergency services for the work they’re doing to support those communities, and I’ll be chairing a Cobra meeting later on to co-ordinate the national response.”