London - Britain's most severe September storms for 30 years flooded homes and businesses in the historic city of York on Thursday and threatened chaos for much of northern England.
Residents took to boats to navigate the picturesque streets of the city dating from Roman times but officials said flood defences would cope as the River Ouse reached near record levels, 3m higher than normal.
City of York Council insisted the centre was "very much open for business" despite 80 properties being flooded while defences in the nearby village of Cawood were bolstered overnight by 4 000 sandbags.
"Loads of staff have been working through the night to protect the city," said Sally Burns from the council, who said experts believed the river levels had peaked.
"We need to be careful and make sure we are giving [sandbags] to the people who are a priority, we can see on the monitors where the problems are."
The Met Office issued more than 50 flood warnings - indicating flooding is expected - and 80 flood alerts - meaning flooding is possible - in England and Wales.
On the brink of collapse
Further rain was forecast for Thursday, putting thousands of homes in northern England at risk.
In Newburn, northeast England, a four-storey block of flats teetered on the brink of collapse after floodwaters destroyed its foundations.
Police arrested a man and a woman in connection with the looting of £20 000 worth of bicycles from a nearby shop.
Elsewhere, police were investigating the discovery of two bodies on the banks of the swollen River Clywedog in north Wales.
The body of a 27-year-old woman was found on Wednesday and the second body, believed to be male, was discovered on Thursday. Police believe they are linked.
An 11-year-old boy was fighting for his life after being struck by lightning in storms in Swindon, southwest England.
The storms have been caused by an unusually deep area of low pressure but conditions are expected to improve over the next 24 hours.