Flood defences have been erected and gusts of more than 80mph recorded as large parts of the UK braced for Storm Bella.
Warnings are in place across England and Wales, including two “threat to life” flood notices, and families have labelled their Christmas a write-off after they were forced to evacuate due to rising water levels.
An amber warning for wind is in place across the south coast and south Wales, with communities from Cornwall to Kent told to expect building damage and the possibility of flying debris in the stormy conditions.
On Saturday evening a gust of 83mph was recorded at Aberdaron in north Wales. Further yellow weather warnings for wind and rain are in place across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and northern Scotland into Sunday indicating 60mph winds are likely across the country, according to the Met Office.
The River Nene burst its banks at Thrapston, Northamptonshire. Photograph: Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock
As of Saturday evening, two severe flood warnings indicating a potential threat to life were in place at Cogenhoe Mill caravan site near Northampton and on the River Nene near Billing Aquadrome. Flood defences had been put up in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, ahead of the overnight storm.
The conditions follow several days of wet weather in parts of southern and eastern England which led to more than 1,300 homes near Bedford being evacuated over Christmas.
One family described eating turkey sandwiches in a hotel on 25 December after police knocked on their door telling them to leave home late on Christmas Eve.
Clare Devany, her husband, James Hodgson, and their daughters, aged four and five, spent Christmas Day moving furniture to the top floor of their house in Bedford, before leaving to spend the night in a hotel in nearby Peterborough.
“You walk around and you just have to work out what to sacrifice,” said Devany. “For us, that was things like the TV, because it was mounted and we didn’t have time to take it down, the living room cabinets.
“It’s furniture, it’s not the end of the world. We moved paperwork, photos, all of the kids’ memorabilia, their toys – everything came upstairs. The only thing we didn’t touch because we didn’t have time was the kitchen.”
She said the day was a festive “write-off”.
The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, urged people to check government advice, such as from the Environment Agency, which has asked people to keep away from “swollen rivers and flooded land”.
Flooding around Caldicot, Wales, on 24 December. Photograph: Matthew Horwood
A statement on the EA’s website said: “It is often deeper than it looks and just 30cm of flowing water is enough to float your car.”
In addition to the stormy conditions, temperatures will stay frosty in some parts into next week, leading health professionals to offer advice on how to keep safe in colder weather.
Dr Ishani Kar-Purkayastha, a consultant at Public Health England, said: “Heat your home to at least 18C if you can, particularly if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease.
“If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to bed. Wearing a few layers of thin clothing is better at trapping heat than one thick layer and will help to keep you warm.”