Evacuation centres have been set up to help those affected by flooding along a river, Bedfordshire Fire Service has said.
People in 1,300 homes by the River Great Ouse were advised to move out and a “severe” flood warning is in place.
The fire service said it had “crews on the ground trying to divert water” – but the volume of water made the situation “very, very difficult”.
Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson said water levels peaked at 02:00 GMT in the town.
In a tweet, he said he had received confirmation that the levels were now “receding”.
Warnings for people to leave their homes remain in place.
Some residents spent Christmas night building trenches in a bid to hold off the flood water.
Gary Huntley, Franco Felice and Adrian Coleman armed themselves with shovels to dig a trench between two trees along the banks of the River Ouse.
As the night wore on, they said they were joined between 30 and 40 other residents from Tennyson Road and The Embankment. who helped with the digging and provided hot drinks.
Mr Huntley, 51, a boot camp coach, said: “We just had Christmas Dinner when Franco, my next door neighbour, said we were going to get flooded.”We went down and had a look at the situation. I said we needed to get shovels and dig a trench between the two trees.”We worked until three, had a break and came back out again at six. Fortunately, the level has dropped this morning.”
The emergency assistance centres are at Bedford International Athletic Stadium and Bromham Village Hall.
“We are advising people in the affected areas to evacuate, and three evacuation centres, or rest centres, have been been set up,” said Paul Fuller, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue.
“People have had a terrible time. We’ve had all the measures in place to protect people from the spread of the virus.
“It was Christmas Day yesterday, Boxing Day today, our hearts just go out to people that have now – with all that going on – had some of the highest levels of floods for over 20 years
“It’s just a dreadful situation.”
Bedfordshire Police, meanwhile, warned of a “really serious situation”.
“River levels are extremely high and we are expecting this to have a significant impact,” Supt Steve Ashdown said.
“This is a really serious situation and we need people to take action in order to keep themselves safe.”
At Bromham, near Bedford, the river was reported to be flowing at its highest recorded level.
Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson said the floods were set to be the worst seen in Bedfordshire for several years.
“The Environment Agency is expecting this to be the highest level of flooding seen in Bedford borough in a number of years and, working with partners, we are strongly encouraging people who are at risk of flooding and have been contacted to leave if they can do so safely,” he said.
The council said people who had been contacted and asked to evacuate were “permitted to go to other people’s homes”.
Bedfordshire is currently under “tier four – stay at home” Covid restrictions, which bans household mixing.
Bedfordshire Police said the flooding situation “over-rides the current Covid-19 regulations”.
Have you been affected by the flooding in Bedfordshire? If it is safe to do so please share your experiences by emailing email@example.com.
Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways: