The next couple of months are likely to be wetter than normal in the UK, experts have warned, raising the prospect of flooding on top of the ongoing battle to contain coronavirus.
Environment Agency executive director of operations John Curtin said teams around the country are prepared for dealing with floods this winter in a Covid-safe way.
But he urged people to check if they are at risk and prepare for potential flooding, to protect precious keepsakes such as old photographs and reduce the mental health impacts of the trauma of being flooded.
He also warned of the challenge of keeping up with the rapidly increasing flood threat posed by climate change.
Will Lang, head of civil contingencies at the Met Office, said that after an unsettled December, with rain and wind continuing into next week, there will be colder, drier weather over Christmas and into the new year.
"Beyond that, though, our longer range forecasts for January and February have been consistently suggesting that wetter, windier and milder conditions are more likely than normal, so that wet weather will return again," he said.
Groundwater levels are slightly above normal and there is not much capacity in the soil to take more rain, leaving the country more "in the gift of the weather going forward", Mr Curtin said.
While the forecast is not certain, it must be taken seriously in case of more wet weather on top of the current conditions, he said.
Mr Curtin said the Environment Agency had carried out repair work or put measures in place to protect communities where defences were damaged by floods brought on by record wet conditions in February, which flooded 8,000 properties.
Equipment, including 25 miles of temporary flood barriers and 250 high-volume pumps, is ready to be deployed, and 1,500 military personnel and 6,500 EA staff are trained to handle floods this winter.
Pictures of the week: December 13 - 19
Pictures of the week: December 13 - 19
Hamleys Elf greets people at the toy store in Ragent Street.
Non-essential shops are still allowed to stay open in Tier 3 areas. Many retailers will still be open for all Christmas shopping needs. (Photo by Pietro Recchia / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Lewis O'Connell, six, and his brother Oscar, three, from Leighton Buzzard at the official opening of the UK's first playground from McDonald's, made from Happy Meal toys at Ronald McDonald House Charities UK (RMHC UK) in Oxford.
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Performers take part in Puss in Boot, the UK's first doorstep 'Hail-A-Panto', hosted by ride hailing app - FREE NOW, London.
The sun rises over the groyne in South Shields, on the North East coast of England, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
An anti-Brexit demonstrator wears a face mask as she holds a placard in Parliament Square, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday she saw clear progress in the trade talks with the UK, turning a post-Brexit deal from a fleeting possibility into an ever more realistic possibility. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A van drives through flood water in Sutton in Cambridgeshire, as the Met Office have warned the next couple of months are likely to be wetter than normal in the UK, raising the prospect of flooding on top of the ongoing battle to contain coronavirus.
General view of Annabel's Mayfair with Christmas decorations. (Photo by Pietro Recchia / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
People pass Christmas lights outside the closed Churchill Arms pub in Kensington, west London, after the capital moved into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions as a result of soaring case rates. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
A woman wears a face mask as she carries shopping bags in Soho, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. London and some of its surrounding areas will be placed under Britain's highest level of coronavirus restrictions beginning at 00:01 local time on today as infections rise rapidly in the capital. Under Tier 3 restrictions, the toughest level in England's three-tier system, people can't socialize indoors, and bars, pubs and restaurants must close except for takeout.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
The statue of Britain's World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill stands in the rain backdropped by a Christmas tree, the scaffolded Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. The consensus across the four nations of the U.K. over the planned easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas appears to be fraying — even though they all agreed Wednesday to keep in place the laws around the relaxation. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A shopper wears a facemask as she walks past an Evening Standard newspaper stand at Victoria Station in central London on December 16, 2020, as new guidance on Christmas during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic was announced by the government. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls to tighten coronavirus restrictions over Christmas, as London faced stricter measures and concern mounted about case numbers. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman walks past a Christmas decorations display outside a wine shop in Mayfair, London, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. London and some of its surrounding areas have been placed under Britain's highest level of coronavirus restrictions beginning at 00:01 local time on Wednesday as infections rise rapidly in the capital. Under Tier 3 restrictions, the toughest level in England's three-tier system, people can't socialize indoors, and bars, pubs and restaurants must close except for takeout. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Manchester City's Ellen White reacts after a missed chance during the Women's UEFA Champions League match at the Academy Stadium, Manchester. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
St Paul's Cathedral Choristers prepare for their first live streamed Christmas concert at St Paul's Cathedral in London, Monday Dec. 14, 2020. The concert 'A Celebration of Christmas' will be held on Thursday December 17. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
A man watches a meteor during the Geminid meteor shower over Brimham Rocks, a collection of balancing rock formations in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Yorkshire. Picture date: Tuesday December 15, 2020. The Geminid meteor shower is active between 4th and 17th of December and is regarded as one of the most reliable of the year with as many as 70 meteors an hour. Brimham Rocks rocks began forming roughly 320 million years ago, when water, grit, and sand washed down from Scotland and Norway. However, standing nearly 30 feet tall the bizarre formations that can be seen today were created as the millstone grit was eroded during the last glacial period. See PA story SCIENCE Geminid. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Activists protesting against coronavirus lockdown restrictions and any mandated covid-19 vaccinations demonstrate in Parliament Square in London, England, on December 14, 2020. London is to be moved to 'Tier 3' restrictions, indicating a 'very high' coronavirus alert level, from this Wednesday, requiring pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants to close other than to offer takeaway and delivery service. The city was returned to Tier 2, or 'high' alert, restrictions at the end of the four-week England-wide lockdown on December 2, albeit with some strengthening provisions having been added in the interim. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Larry the cat in Downing Street, London. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Anti-Brexit activist Steve Bray watches as an activist protesting against coronavirus lockdown restrictions and any mandated covid-19 vaccinations is arrested by police officers in Parliament Square in London, England, on December 14, 2020. London is to be moved to 'Tier 3' restrictions, indicating a 'very high' coronavirus alert level, from this Wednesday, requiring pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants to close other than to offer takeaway and delivery service. The city was returned to Tier 2, or 'high' alert, restrictions at the end of the four-week England-wide lockdown on December 2, albeit with some strengthening provisions having been added in the interim. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A selection of free fish for sale at fishmonger in London. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A woman takes part in an anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown protest near Parliament Square, London, Monday Dec. 14, 2020. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
A person looks at a painting during the opening of Tate Liverpool's exhibition of Liverpool NHS worker portraits, Monday Dec. 14, 2020. The new commission by New York based artist Aliza Nisenbaum features portraits and two large scale group portraits painted of key workers from NHS Merseyside who worked for their communities during the coronavirus pandemic. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
Police officers wear face masks as they patrol an anti-lockdown demonstration in Parliament Square, in London, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Britain launched its vaccination program this month after becoming the first country to give emergency approval to the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, and authorities plan to dispense 800,000 doses in the first phase. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A couple wearing face masks as precaution against the spread of covid19 seen at Burlington Arcade, Mayfair.
London is set to move to �high alert level� on Wednesday 16th December. (Photo by Pietro Recchia / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A view of a Covid-19 vaccination card after a patient received the first dose of the Pfizer BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the Hurley Clinic, in London, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. The National Health Service said hundreds of general medical clinics across England are taking delivery of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on Monday, and some will start offering the shots by the afternoon. (Aaron Chown/Pool Photo via AP)
A member of staff holds a vial of the the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as they pose for a photograph at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton, western Scotland, on December 14, 2020, where staff and residents are receiving their first doses of the vaccination. - Britain has received some 800,000 doses of the vaccine in the first batch of an order of 40 million. Up to four million doses are expected by the end of December. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21 days apart. The over-80s and health and social care staff are first in line to get the jab in the national rollout. (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The door of 10 Downing Street, in London, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
LONDON, Dec. 13, 2020 -- A woman wearing a face mask walks along Westminster Bridge in central London, Britain, on Dec. 13, 2020. Britons who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus will have to self-isolate for 10 days instead of 14, Britain's chief medical officers announced Friday.
The new measure, coming into effect from Monday, also applies to those required to quarantine after returning from countries which are not on Britain's travel corridor list. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
Arsenal's manager Mikel Arteta watches the play during an English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Burnley at the Emirates stadium in London, England, Sunday Dec. 13, 2020. (Laurence Griffiths/Pool via AP)
Resident Annie Innes, 90, talks with a healthcare worker after receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton, western Scotland, on December 14, 2020. - Britain has received some 800,000 doses of the vaccine in the first batch of an order of 40 million. Up to four million doses are expected by the end of December. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21 days apart. The over-80s and health and social care staff are first in line to get the jab in the national rollout. (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Storms Aiden and Alex earlier this year allowed teams to test their response under Covid-19 conditions, including putting out kit in a safe way, setting up virtual incident rooms and using local support to avoid moving people around the country, he said.
"We have done a lot of preparedness, a lot of testing to make sure we can still respond this winter under Covid conditions, but it's really important that people prepare their own flood risk."
He urged householders to take time to prepare for the possibility of flooding, which he said would be beneficial to their mental health and ensure they save their precious keepsakes such as old photographs.
Local emergency response teams have planned for managing evacuations in a Covid-safe way, he said, adding that the potential risk of the virus would be secondary to a real threat to life in a flooding situation
"All of that has been well rehearsed, it's just whether or not people are aware of that.
"What we don't want is people's hesitancy to leave if their life is in danger from an immediate approaching flood, worrying about what the Covid risk is, so that's one of the elements we will have to keep communicating through this winter."
Dr Lang also urged people to keep up to date with weather forecasts and warnings.
He said changes to lives because of the pandemic, such as being less used to driving in winter conditions, could make people more vulnerable – though he added that a greater awareness of risk could help make people more prepared.