March blows in a storm: torrential rain and gale force winds on the way

March blows in a storm: torrential rain and gale force winds on the wayPA

The weather forecast for the UK makes some grim reading, with plummeting temperatures and heavy rain, gales and fierce storms for the next two days, say forecasters.

Travel chaos on rail and road is being predicted as the weather system takes hold.

The Met Office says that more heavy rain is due to hit Scotland and Northern Ireland, spreading to England today (Wednesday).

More than 36 hours of almost constant rain has already fallen in Norfolk, which saw 55mm of rain, while 30mm fell across Kent and Lincolnshire. Parts of East Anglia experienced 12 hours of continuous rainfall.

Severe gale gusts of 57mph were recorded in Norfolk, with similar gusts in exposed parts of the south east.

Helen Chivers from the Met Office said: "These areas have been dry for up to a year, so the rain is welcome."

But while the rain and winds may be needed in drought-ridden England, commuters and travellers faced a battle. Many roads became submerged in floodwater in East Anglia, while trees and branches felled by near gale-force winds, rain and sleet brought roads to a halt.

Drivers are being warned of extremely slippery roads and snow on high grounds, and the wintery weather was believed to be responsible for a number of crashes on the M40 in Oxfordshire.

After last weekend's record 17C highs, the strong northerly winds hitting much of the country meant temperatures well below freezing.

All of which makes the unseasonably mild weather of just a few days ago seem like a dream. But if you need to get away now, here are a few suggestions. We can but wish....

8 PHOTOS
Best warm and sunny holidays for March
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March blows in a storm: torrential rain and gale force winds on the way

Spain's Palma is a bustling, cosmopolitan city bursting with architectural gems (la Seo Cathedral, Bellver Castle), fantastic food, shopping and scenery: think a mix of cliffs, bays and beaches. In March, expect perfect sightseeing temps of 20C. Average hours of sun in March: 7. Time from UK: Two hours. Holidays: Sovereign.com

Topping our where-to-book-now list has to be the blissful surrounds of teeny Thai island hideaway, Soneva Kiri, in the beautiful spot of Kood. When the folks at Six Senses say 'spa', they mean business. Thaw out at this staggeringly beautiful beachside location and feel renewed in time for spring in style. Average hours of sun in March:8. Time from UK: 17 hours to Bangkok, plus a one-hour transfer flight. Holidays: Black Tomato

Tourist haven Dubai is a city of superlatives: here you'll find the biggest, fastest, tallest, largest and highest of everything. It's a great place for a short break, whether it's shopping, partying, fine dining, sunbathing or sporting events you're after. The weather can get sizzlingly hot in the summer, so March is the perfect time to go, as there's guaranteed sunshine, warm enough to sunbathe, but not to slip into meltdown. Going after the February half term but before summer holidays means you'll get better value for money, too. Average hours of sun in March: 8.5 hours. Time from UK: 7 hours. Holidays: For a luxurious stay, we love Atlantis The Palm in Dubai.

World-class waves, sun basked beaches and warm waters: for the quirkiest of ocean-side escapes, Jaco it is. This paradise-delicious hotspot is Costa Rica in its wildest and most flamboyant form. Jaco is where the surfers come to play, the sun-seekers set up camp, and where the nightlife never sleeps. Located in the north of the Puntarenas province along the central Pacific coast (that's less than two hours from San Jose) lays this popular, laidback town, where the hippy crowd arrived in the early '90s and never left. Average hours of sun in March: 8. Time from UK: 11 hours, 30 mins. Holidays:  For good deals, visit thomson.co.uk.

Best bit about skiing in March? As spring approaches it's much sunnier, and the longer daylight hours and lift opening times give you longer on the slopes. Late season is low season, so lift passes and accommodation cost considerably less. What's more, it is also quieter: fewer people on the slopes, and less chance of lift queues. But where to go? Key elements to look out for are altitude (high - ideally with glacier) or latitude (northern) and a reputation for lots of snow (machine made or natural). The higher the altitude of the ski area, better. Time from UK: Two hours, plus a one hour, 30 mins transfer. Holidays: Try St Anton, Austria - famous for its excellent skiing as well as ultra-lively nightlife. Check out at Chalet Tirolerhaus (three-star) with Crystal Ski from £729 per adult half-board.

March is pretty much the perfect time to visit the Caribbean, and Antigua is one of its most beautiful destinations (although it's hard to choose). Head to Shirley Heights for a spectacular sunset and steel pan band music; Jolly Beach for talcum powder sand; Nelson's Dockyard in the English Harbour for the yachting and sailing scene; and into the ocean for out-of-this-world snorkelling. Average hours of sun in March: 8. Time from UK: Eight hours, 40 mins. Holidays: Kuoni

Slip into the driving seat and mix up the very best of California's good vibrations with a roadtrip wine tour through Sonoma's valleys. In March, the temperatures are rising on those famous Pacific beaches, making the West Coast one of our hottest seasonal tips for a golden-hued spring break. Plus, it's March Madness (the championships of basketball season) so it's a fun time to go Stateside. Average hours of sun in March: 8.5. Time from UK: 11 hours. Holidays: Black Tomato

Our hottest tip for March is to slip off the beaten track to Bhutan: from now until  June, the central region of Bumthang bursts into dazzling floral shades, with rhododendron flowers and blue poppies staining this mystical landscape pink, purple and blue. And with that, there's also a chance to spot the elusive red panda. Time from the UK: 10 hours. Average hours of sunshine in March: 8. Holidays: Responsible Travel offers a selection of Bhutan adventures including some good walking holidays for all abilities. 

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