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.
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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.