As forecasters warn of more heavy flooding to hit Britain in the coming days, some have suggested water levels could be higher than the devastating floods of 1953.

Dubbed the Big Flood, that disaster left 307 people dead and 40,000 homeless, when the East coast was battered by what was described as a "freak combination of winds, atmospheric pressure and high tides".

Defences built since then - including the Thames and Hull barriers - mean that many parts of the country are much better protected, an Environment Agency spokesman said.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW:

1953

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  • Disasters - The Great Floods of 1953 - Eastern England

    Flood distressed children being fed sandwiches and Pepsi Cola.

  • Weather - Flooding in King's Lynn - Norfolk - 1953

    A woman is carried piggy back along the flooded street, an overturned caravan is in a yard at right, house fences are broken down and a tractor stands amid other vehicles in the Wisbech Road area, worst stricken flood spot in King's Lynn. The town was hit in the widespread flooding that hit most of the Eastern seaboard of Britain.

  • Weather - Canvey Island Floods - 1953

    View from the air as servicemen mend a breach in the sea wall at Canvey Island, the Thames Estuary holiday resort overwhelmed in the flood disaster along Britain's east coast.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Wrapped in blankets, children and adults are ferried by boat through the flood waters at Jaywick, near Clacton, essex, after the disastrous storms that hit the south east.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Shattered masonry at one of the breaches in the sea wall of Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, after the storms that hit the east of England.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953 - Thames Estuary

    A plane bearing Royal Air Force markings surrounded by the flood waters in the Thames Estuary.

  • British Weather - Storms - Mablethorpe - 1953

    The wreckage of the Beach Hotel, Sutton-on-Sea, two miles south of Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, where severe damage has been done by the floods which hit Britain's east coast.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    In place of traffic and pedestrians, a solitary boat holds the stage in the main street of flooded Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, after compulsory evacuation in the devastating and widespread floods.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Debris almost covers the British submarine HMS Sirdar in dry dock at Sheerness naval dockyard after the warship had been swamped by the disastrous floods.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    A woman laden with as many of her household possessions as she can carry flees her flooded home at Maassluis.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    The village of Bruinisse, in a sea of floodwater on the Dutch island of Schouwen Duiveland, one of the worst hit areas of the western Netherlands.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Hundreds of bundles of flax float on the surface of the flood water at inundated Gravendeel.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (right) listens to the grim story told by one of the flood refugees whom she met in Utrecht, when she visited some of the centres where evacuees from flood-stricken areas of the south-western Netherlands are being cared for.

  • Disasters - The Great Floods of 1953 - Canvey Island

    A child is transferred from a rescue boat to an army lorry at Canvey Island. The last inhabitants were compulsorily evacuated by police, troops and other services from Canvey Island, Essex, where more than 100 people are known to have died in the flood disaster.

  • Disasters - The Great Floods of 1953 - Canvey Island

    A Royal Artillery sergeant carries a small evacuee, who remembered her doll, to an evacuation bus. The last 2,000 inhabitants were compulsorily evacuated by police, troops and other services from Canvey Island, Essex, where more than 100 people are known to have died in the flood disaster. About 500 are missing.

  • Disasters - The Great Floods of 1953 - Canvey Island

    The remainder of the dauntless inhabitants of flood-stricken Canvey Island, Essex, were being evacuated as the toll of the tragedy rose to 100 deaths and 400 people are still missing. Servicemen, police, ambulance and firemen co-operated in the evacuation to safety of those people still in their semi-submerged houses.

  • Weather - Dutch Storm of 1953

    Flood disaster in Holland - pigs and cattle being brought into Gravendeel - west of Dordrecht, after rescue from outlaying farms, after disastrous floods covered large parts of Holland and one sixth of the country's land surface estimated to be under water - in some areas 40 feet in depth. At least 600 people reported dead and many more missing. 3rd February 1953

  • Weather - Dutch Storms of 1953

    Dutch refugees take rail track to safety - people rescued from their homes in Zealand, south western province of Holland on the North Sea, use a railway track as a bridge across a vast stretch of flood water on their way to a place of safety. They are accompanied by soliders who went to their rescue. There are over 400 known dead in the catastrophic Dutch floods, about a sixth of the country's land area is under water. February 3rd 1953

  • Disasters - The Great Floods of 1953 - Canvey Island

    An elderly woman is helped from a truck on Canvey Island after the first stage of her evacuation. The last inhabitants were compulsorily evacuated by police, troops and other services from Canvey Island, Essex, where more than 100 people are known to have died in the flood disaster.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    An aerial view of the devastation caused by the floods in Oude Tonge in the Netherlands.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Water from a flooded polder streams into a canal at Maassluis.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Servicemen and civilian workers toiling at Canvey Island, Essex, to repair the sea defences, damage to which caused the disastrous floods.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Small boats pass through what was once a busy shopping street in Flushing, Netherlands, carrying inhabitants who were rescued from their houses to safety.

  • Disasters - The Great Floods of 1953 - Canvey Island

    Servicemen and civilian workers are toiling at Canvey Island, Essex, to repair the sea defences, damage to which caused the disastrous floods which cost many lives on the island and rendered thousands homeless.

  • Weather - Storm of 1953

    Servicemen hauling a car through the flood water at Canvey Island, Essex.

  • Disasters - Floods - 1953 East Coast Floods - Harwich

    Aerial view of flooded Harwich showing the main street under water.

  • Disasters - Floods - 1953 East Coast Floods - Canning Town

    Flood Victims receive assistance at the Canning Town Public Hall. Four victims of the flood seen having a meal (left to right) Graham Fordham, Charles Hunter, Christine Fordham and Stewart Fordham.

  • FLOODED CANVEY ISLAND : FEB. 1953

    SERVICEMEN ARE SEEN IN THIS AERIALPICTURE WORKING ON THE SEA WALL,BREACHED IN SEVERAL PLACES, OF FLOODEDCANVEY ISLAND, THE THAMES ESTUARYBUNGALOW HOLIDAY RESORT OVERWHELMED INTHE FLOOD DISASTER ALONG BRITAIN'S EASTCOAST. AT LEAST 100 HAVE DIED.

  • Weather - Canvey Island Floods - 1953

    Members of the public are helped by firemen pulling a small boat in a flood stricken Canvey Island, Essex.

  • Disasters - Floods - 1953 East Coast Floods - Foulness

    Aerial view of flooded island of Foulness, one of the badly hit areas in the Thames estuary after great floods swept over Essex.

  • Weather - Great Floods of 1953

    On a tiny scrap of dry land amid the ocean of flood water in the Thames Estuary, these cattle were pictured huddled together against the rising water during the east coast floods of february 1953.

  • Weather - Canvey Island Floods - 1953

    The last inhabitants being compulsorily evacuated by police, troops and other services from Canvey Island, Essex, where more than one hundred people are known to have died in the flood disaster.

  • Disaster - Flood - 1953 East Coast Floods - Harwich

    Naval men at Harwich attempt to raise a man hole cover to allow flood waters to escape.

  • Flood disaster of 1953

    Rowing boats on Thameside Crescent, as the last 2,000 inhabitants are being compulsorily evacuated by police, troops and other services from Canvey Island, Essex, where more than 100 people are known to have died in the flood disaster.

  • Disasters - The Great Floods of 1953 - Canvey Island

    A policeman checking (by ration cards and other documents) the identity of people going onto Canvey Island. Police are screening visitors to the island, from which there has been a large-scale evacuation owing to severe flooding, in an anti-looter check. They are not allowing the removal of any radio or television set from the island,

  • Disasters - The Great Floods of 1953 - Norfolk

    U.S servicemen from nearby Langham Camp help in salvage work at Salthouse, Norfolk, where furniture and other household goods were strewn all over the village in the east coast storm and flood disaster.

  • Weather - Dutch Storm 1953

    A smashed house left in the wake of the hurricane at Maassluia near Rotterdam. Winds reaching hurricane force in many areas whipped the seas into tempestuous waves and caused flooding in most areas of Great Britain, Holland and Belgium.

2013

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  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    BOSTON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A resident sits on the stairs of an appartment deep in flood water on December 5, 2013 in Boston, England. Parts of the United Kingdom are being affected by storm conditions and surge tides. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    BOSTON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A rescue team wade through flood water in The High Street on December 5, 2013 in Boston, England. Parts of the United Kingdom are being affected by storm conditions and surge tides. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • BELGIUM-EUROPE-WEATHER-STORM

    Belgian firefighters remove a tree that fell on the E429 / N203a highway in Halle as storm Xaver approached Belgium on December 5, 2013. A fierce storm battered northern Europe with hurricane force winds, leaving four people dead or missing, disrupting travel and forcing thousands to flee their homes over fears of the worst tidal surge in decades. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/SISKA GREMMELPREZ == BELGIUM OUT == (Photo credit should read SISKA GREMMELPREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    BOSTON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A rescue team pulls a boat with an evacuee on board through flood water in The High Street on December 5, 2013 in Boston, England. Parts of the United Kingdom are being affected by storm conditions and surge tides. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    RHYL, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: RNLI rescue personnell work through the night searching flooded properties for people not already evacuated as emergency services prepare for the next high tide on December 5, 2013 in Rhyl, United Kingdom. Storms across Britain has resulted in two deaths and the evacuation of thousand of people. High winds and high tides caused by low atmospheric pressure has created flooding in many coastal towns. Emergency services are monitoring coastal defences as the next high tide are due in the early hours of Friday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    RHYL, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: RNLI rescue personnell work through the night searching flooded properties for people not already evacuated as emergency services prepare for the next high tide on December 5, 2013 in Rhyl, United Kingdom. Storms across Britain has resulted in two deaths and the evacuation of thousand of people. High winds and high tides caused by low atmospheric pressure has created flooding in many coastal towns. Emergency services are monitoring coastal defences as the next high tide are due in the early hours of Friday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    RHYL, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: RNLI rescue personnell work through the night searching flooded properties for people not already evacuated as emergency services prepare for the next high tide on December 5, 2013 in Rhyl, United Kingdom. Storms across Britain has resulted in two deaths and the evacuation of thousand of people. High winds and high tides caused by low atmospheric pressure has created flooding in many coastal towns. Emergency services are monitoring coastal defences as the next high tide are due in the early hours of Friday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    RHYL, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: Cars sit in a flooded street as emergency services prepare for the next high tide on December 5, 2013 in Rhyl, United Kingdom. Storms across Britain has resulted in two deaths and the evacuation of thousand of people. High winds and high tides caused by low atmospheric pressure has created flooding in many coastal towns. Emergency services are monitoring coastal defences as the next high tide are due in the early hours of Friday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By High Winds

    SANDSEND, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A police van blocks the road as strong tidal surges come over the sea wall on December 5, 2013 in Sandsend, United Kingdom. Strong winds and big tides are expected to cause coastal flooding along many of the east coast of England. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By High Winds

    WHITBY, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: Firefighters in Whitby pump out flood water from business premises following severe flooding in the Yorkshire town on December 5, 2013 in Whitby, United Kingdom. Strong winds and big tides are expected to cause coastal flooding along many of the east coast of England. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    BOSTON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A rescue team helps an evacuee from a boat after pulling it through flood waters in The High Street on December 5, 2013 in Boston, England. Parts of the United Kingdom are being affected by storm conditions and surge tides. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By High Winds

    WHITBY, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: Firefighters in Whitby pump out flood water from business premises following severe flooding in the Yorkshire town on December 5, 2013 in Whitby, United Kingdom. Strong winds and big tides are expected to cause coastal flooding along many of the east coast of England. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By High Winds

    WHITBY, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A member of staff in a pub in Whitby tries to clean up flood water from the bar following a strong tidal surge on December 5, 2013 in Whitby, United Kingdom. Strong winds and big tides are expected to cause coastal flooding along many of the east coast of England. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By High Winds

    WHITBY, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A member of staff in a pub in Whitby tries to clean out flood water from the bar after a strong tidal surge caused severe flooding on December 5, 2013 in Whitby, United Kingdom. Strong winds and big tides are expected to cause coastal flooding along many of the east coast of England. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By High Winds

    WHITBY, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: Firefighters in Whitby pump out flood water from business premises following severe flooding in the Yorkshire town on December 5, 2013 in Whitby, United Kingdom. Strong winds and big tides are expected to cause coastal flooding along many of the east coast of England. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By High Winds

    SANDSEND, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A Coastguard vehicle blocks the road as strong tidal surges come over the sea wall on December 5, 2013 in Sandsend, United Kingdom. Strong winds and big tides are expected to cause coastal flooding along many of the east coast of England. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    GREAT YARMOUTH, ENGLAND, DECEMBER 05: Water breaches the sea wall on the promenade on December 5, 2013 in Great Yarmouth, England. Thousands of people are being evacuated from their homes, the Environment Agency has given 42 severe floods warnings as a storm serge hits large parts of the UK. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    GREAT YARMOUTH, ENGLAND, DECEMBER 05: A local resident looks on as water breaches the sea wall on the promenade on December 5, 2013 in Great Yarmouth, England. Thousands of people are being evacuated from their homes, the Environment Agency has given 42 severe floods warnings as a storm serge hits large parts of the UK. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Severe Winds As Storm Surges Threaten Coastal Regions

    GREAT YARMOUTH, ENGLAND, DECEMBER 05: Local residents fill sandbags through the night as high tide approaches on December 5, 2013 in Great Yarmouth, England. Thousands of people are being evacuated from their homes, the Environment Agency has given 42 severe floods warnings as a storm serge hits large parts of the UK. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By High Winds

    SANDSEND, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05: A member of the Coastguard helps to close the coast road in Sandsend as strong tidal surges come over the sea wall on December 5, 2013 in Sandsend, United Kingdom. Strong winds and big tides are expected to cause coastal flooding along many of the east coast of England. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

  • Autumn weather Dec 6th

    Cromer Pier this morning after the worst tidal surge for more than 60 years hit coastal towns along the east coast of Britain.

  • Autumn weather Dec 6th

    Cromer Pier this morning after the worst tidal surge for more than 60 years hit coastal towns along the east coast of Britain.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Firefighters doing house to house checks in Blakeney, Norfolk, after a tidal surge hit tonight.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Firefighters doing house to house checks in Blakeney, Norfolk, after a tidal surge hit tonight.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Firefighters doing house to house checks in Blakeney, Norfolk, after a tidal surge hit tonight.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    High winds and sea batter the North Antrim coast at Portstewart, in Co Antrim. Thousands of homes are still without power in Northern Ireland after gale force winds ripped down trees, power lines and electricity poles. Gusts of up to 70mph which swept in from the Atlantic have left parts of the north, east and exposed rural areas facing major blackouts.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People are rescued by the RNLI from the floods in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    A woman stands in the flood water in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People are rescued by the RNLI from the floods in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People are rescued by the RNLI from the floods in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People are rescued by the RNLI from the floods in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People are rescued by the RNLI from the floods in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People are rescued by the RNLI from the floods in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Police at the scene where a lorry driver has died as his HGV toppled on to a number of cars on the A801 in West Lothian as the gale-force winds brought widespread disruption to the transport network.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Police at the scene where a lorry driver has died as his HGV toppled on to a number of cars on the A801 in West Lothian as the gale-force winds brought widespread disruption to the transport network.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Police at the scene where a lorry driver has died as his HGV toppled on to a number of cars on the A801 in West Lothian as the gale-force winds brought widespread disruption to the transport network.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    A man stands in front of a huge wave on the seafront in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    A woman stands in front of a huge wave on the seafront in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People walk a dog along the seafront in Rhyl passing huge waves as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People walk a dog along the seafront in Rhyl passing huge waves as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    People stop and look at a huge wave as they walk a dog along the seafront in Rhyl as heavy seas and high tides sweep across the country.

  • Bowline Images / Darron Mark Photography <a href="https://twitter.com/DMFoto" target="_blank">@DMFoto</a>

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    High winds and sea batter the Antrim coast road in Co Antrim. Thousands of homes are still without power in Northern Ireland after gale force winds ripped down trees, power lines and electricity poles. Gusts of up to 70mph which swept in from the Atlantic have left parts of the north, east and exposed rural areas facing major blackouts.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    A driver has a lucky escape after suffering only minor injuries as a tree fell on her car in Solihull, Birmingham. Forecasters predict winds of up to 80mph will batter the UK over the coming days.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Workers clear up debris after a tree fell in high winds, landing on a passing car in Solihull, Birmingham. Forecasters predict winds of up to 80mph will batter the UK over the coming days.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    A driver has a lucky escape after suffering only minor injuries as a tree fell on her car in Solihull, Birmingham. Forecasters predict winds of up to 80mph will batter the UK over the coming days.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Workers clear up debris after a tree fell in high winds, landing on a passing car in Solihull, Birmingham. Forecasters predict winds of up to 80mph will batter the UK over the coming days.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Workers clear up debris after a tree fell in high winds, landing on a passing car in Solihull, Birmingham. Forecasters predict winds of up to 80mph will batter the UK over the coming days.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    Workers clear up debris after a tree fell in high winds, landing on a passing car in Solihull, Birmingham. Forecasters predict winds of up to 80mph will batter the UK over the coming days.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    A driver has a lucky escape after suffering only minor injuries as a tree fell on her car in Solihull, Birmingham. Forecasters predict winds of up to 80mph will batter the UK over the coming days.

  • Autumn weather Dec 5th

    A driver has a lucky escape after suffering only minor injuries as a tree fell on her car in Solihull, Birmingham. Forecasters predict winds of up to 80mph will batter the UK over the coming days.

However, some coastal flood defences could be "overtopped" by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a large tidal surge, he added.

The agency said communities along the North Sea coast from Northumberland to the Thames Estuary and Kent, in addition to those on the Irish Sea coast from Cumbria down to Cheshire, could see significant coastal flooding tonight and into Friday.