Homes evacuated in Seasalter and emergency shelter set up as Whitstable, Herne Bay, Faversham and parts of Canterbury prepare for flooding
People have been warned to evacuate their homes as the district prepares for the most serious coastal tidal surge for more than 30 years.
The city council is "strongly advising" people who live in front of the sea defences in Faversham Road, Seasalter to leave their homes and seek shelter at All Saints Church hall in Church Street, Whitstable.
Last year's storm caused choppy waters in Herne Bay (photo: Colin Miles)
A severe flood warning has been issued for the area, meaning there is a serious risk that high tides could cause a "prolonged surge" leading to "very high" water levels and flooding.
Council spokesman Celia Glynn-Williams says: "Because of the potential danger from flooding in the area, residents in the Faversham Road area of Seasalter are currently being strongly advised to evacuate their homes to stay with relations or friends where possible."
The emergency rest centre has been arranged by the council for all residents who have been forced to leave their homes.
Waves battered Herne Bay seafront last year (photo: Colin Miles)
The council warns people to evacuate their homes only if they have been advised to, and to take all necessary items including important medication with them.
They are also told to inform family and friend of where they are staying.
If they choose to remain at home, they are advised to move themselves, their pets, small valuables and food and drink supplies to the first floor, if possible.
Today, the authority also closed the flood-gates in Herne Bay and put out sandbags to prepare for surges expected during the high tide in the early hours of the morning and again in the afternoon.
Water poured into the streets of Whitstable in 1953
It comes after the Environment Agency issued flood alerts for the area - along with Faversham and Herne Bay - urging people to be prepared for possible floods.
More serious flood warnings - which mean flooding is expected and immediate action is required - have also been issued further inland for Grove Ferry and Plucks Gutter near Canterbury, Ash and Stodmarsh.
The agency and Met Office are warning that Kent is at most risk from gale-force winds, large waves and a tidal surge caused by low pressure which will combine with high tides tomorrow and into Saturday morning, bringing a risk of significant coastal flooding.
In some places, sea levels could be as high as those seen during the devastating floods of 1953.
However, experts insist flood defences built since then mean many parts of the country are much better protected than 60 years ago.
Herne Bay during the 1953 flood
The Environment Agency will be closing the Thames Barrier on Thursday night to defend London and it is liaising with local councils who are putting emergency evacuation plans together.
It could mean thousands of home owners, businesses and retailers having to decamp to emergency shelters such as sports halls and community centres.
Dr Paul Leinster, Environment Agency chief executive, said: '"Gale force winds and large waves along the east coast of England are forecast during Thursday and Friday, coinciding with high tides and a significant coastal surge.
"Flooding of some coastal communities is expected and some defences could be overtopped by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a tidal surge.
"Coastal paths and promenades will be highly dangerous as there is an increased risk of people being swept out to sea.
"The Environment Agency is monitoring the situation closely, working alongside the emergency services, Met Office and local authorities.
"Environment Agency teams are out on the ground checking that flood defences and barriers are in good working order, monitoring sea levels and issuing flood warnings."
Motorists are advised not to attempt to drive through flooded roads, and to avoid coastal and river paths.
People who need urgent help are asked to call 999, or if they need advice from the council, to call 01227 655033.
For the latest updates, visit the Environment Agency website at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31618.aspx or call their Floodline on 0845 988 1188 for the latest flood warnings.
The city council will be providing regular updates on Twitter at @tweetcanterbury and Facebook at www.facebook.com/CanterburyCityCouncil.
Advice is also available at www.kent.gov.uk/environment_and_planning/flood_risk_management.aspx
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