March washout leads to wintry Easter

MISERABLE March brought high winds, low temperatures - and more than twice the average rainfall in Suffolk . . . which all help turn the early Easter into a winter whiteout.

MISERABLE March brought high winds, low temperatures - and more than twice the average rainfall in Suffolk . . . which all help turn the early Easter into a winter whiteout.

The first half of the month was often mild with temperatures up to 55F(13C) on March 11 and March 14.

Deep depressions from the Atlantic generated gale force winds on March 10 and the central pressure of the deepest low pressure system was down to 948 millibars.

Along the coast the south westerly gales reached 60 mph in the strongest gusts.

Another depression centred near south west Ireland moved east and deposited 1.20 inches of rain in the Ipswich area in a 10-hour deluge.

This was the heaviest 24-hour rainfall since last October.

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The second half of March was notably cold and at one time an airstream of Arctic origin swept south across East Anglia bringing the coldest Easter for a decade.

On Good Friday winds gusted up to 55 mph but it was the earliest Easter for 95 years.

Easter Day saw a belt of continuous snow covering most places and final deposits gave a layer of up to two inches over a wide area.

The wintry weather caused many outdoor activities to be cancelled during the Easter weekend but snow at Easter is not uncommon.

Over the last 100 years snow has fallen on 18 occasions and many Easters have been cold.

Snow can sometimes occur much later and records show that on April 27 in 1919 more than 12 inches of snow fell in parts of East Anglia. It was due to a polar depression sweeping south in a very cold Arctic airflow.

March was a notably wet month over much of the region and in Ipswich measurable rain fell on 18 days. The total amounted to 3.76 inches compared with the long-term March average of only 1.62 inches.

At Wattisham Airfield the total rainfall was 4.00 inches - a figure that ranked as the highest in March since records began nearly 50 years ago.

A wet March is a rarity. A rainfall exceeding four inches has occurred in only five years since 1840. Wettest was in 1914 with a total of 4.48 inches.

Other reports of total rainfall were Belstead Hall 3.51 inches and Higham (Suffolk) 3.50 inches.

Sunshine was below the average in most places and at Wattisham the total was 93.8 hours.

Coldest day of the month was March 23 when maximum temperatures stood at 37F(03C).

MARCH AVERAGES and EXTREMES

Maximum daytime temperature 48F

Night minimum temperature 35F

Average number of air frosts 10

Average number of ground frosts 16

March average rainfall (1903 to 2007) 1.62 inches

Days with rain 12

Duration of rain 44 hours

March average sunshine 109 hours

Maximum possible daily sunshine 11.8 hours

Midday sun altitude above horizon (March 15) 36 degrees

Barometric pressure (reduced to mean sea level) 1015 millibars

North Sea temperature (10 miles out) 45F

Highest daytime maximum temperature 72F on March 29 1965

Lowest daytime maximum temperature 28F on March 1 1986

Highest recorded wind speed 76 mph on March 24 1986