Weather misery forecast as Easter getaway starts

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The Easter getaway began in earnest today as forecasters predicted miserable conditions for the bank holiday weekend.

The wintry weather that has enveloped much of Scotland and Northern Ireland for the last few days is receding only to be replaced by persistent rain.

Earlier today tributes were paid to teenager Natasha Paton who died in a coach crash during atrocious weather.

Yesterday, her coach plunged 10ft into a stream during a snowstorm at Wiston in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

The AA predicted today would be the busiest of the holiday period as schools closed for the Easter break.

The road and rail networks were busy but operating smoothly with neither Network Rail or the Highways Agency reporting any significant problems.

Forecasters warned of miserable holiday weather as the hangover from the freezing winter stubbornly refused to loosen its grip.

Much of the UK will see persistent rain in the next two days with Easter Sunday offering brief respite with sunny spells.

Natasha Paton's headmaster led tributes to the teenager today following her death on a school trip.

The teenager from Cleghorn, South Lanarkshire, was killed and several of her friends injured when the vehicle skidded off a bridge and into a river.

Mark Sherry, headmaster of Lanark Grammar School, said: "Natasha was a very popular pupil and friend who had high hopes of passing her exams and possibly going on to further education.

"Natasha was a young person with a lovely nature towards everyone in school. She always had a smile for teachers and fellow pupils whenever she saw them."

She was one of 39 pupils and six adults on a Lanark Grammar School outing to Alton Towers theme park.

She is thought to have been thrown out of the vehicle as it careered down the embankment and was trapped underneath when it came to a rest.

Natasha's parents said in a statement: "We are devastated at the loss of our beloved daughter.

"Natasha was a typical teenager and very popular with lots of friends and will be greatly missed by all who knew her."

The heavy snow and gale-force winds that led to the crash have now moved on but the Easter weekend will see rain, wind and lower-than-normal temperatures.

Forecaster Andy Ratcliffe of MeteoGroup, the Press Association's weather division, said: "Conditions will be quite miserable for much of the Easter holiday.

"Temperatures will be slightly cooler than normal for this time of the year.

"This evening there will be showers in central England and Wales, some of these will be heavy. These showers will move north east.

"There will be wintry showers in North West Scotland these will fall as snow on higher ground."

Persistent rain will fall on Good Friday and Easter Saturday before brighter conditions appear on Easter Sunday.

The transport network will bear the brunt of what is typically one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said they were anticipating that this evening and tomorrow morning would be the peak periods.

He explained: "With a lot of the schools breaking up today we are anticipating that it may become busy on the roads this evening as people set off after work.

"So far there are no major problems and everything is running smoothly."

The AA estimated 56% of the UK's motorists were likely to take to the roads this Easter with around 17 million cars on the move.

Last Easter they attended more than 50,000 breakdowns and are expecting another busy period as many people make their first long-distance car journey of the year.

Stewart Topp, AA patrolman of the year, said: "It's very tempting just to jump in the car and head off but it really does pay to spend a few minutes checking your car and making sure you have everything you need for the journey."

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said trains were running smoothly although there was still no service between Perth and Inverness via Aviemore following heavy snow in the area yesterday.

The line is expected to reopen later today.

But around two million Britons just can't face more bad weather and will flee to sunnier climes over the Easter weekend.

Travel organisation Abta said most would flock to Spain and its islands.