Motorists who defied police warnings to stay at home faced treacherous roads yesterday, with ice-covered routes littered with abandoned cars and lorries.
And thousands of motorists, remained stuck in huge traffic jams yesterday evening in the East Midlands and south-east England, while airports and parts of the rail network were also severely affected.
The AA received 16,000 breakdown calls by early yesterday afternoon and had expected another 20,000 by the end of the day.
Transport Secretary Alastair Darling has demanded an explanation from the Highways Agency and rail chiefs about why winter weather was able to cause such widespread chaos.
The government said it would bring forward legislation requiring councils to grit the roads.
In Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire hundreds of schools been have shut down and thousands of homes left without power.
Forecasters have warned that there will be freezing weather again tonight, with ice on the roads continuing to cause dangerous conditions.
The worst traffic jams were on the M11 between London and Cambridge, as the ice and snow brought traffic to a standstill. Some drivers reported being stuck on the motorway for 20 hours and police said at least 12 lorries had jack-knifed.
Passengers at London airports faced severe delays and cancellations as the bad weather grounded flights. Stansted airport, which was originally closed because the runway was deemed too dangerous to use, remained shut because staff could not get to work.
Hundreds of flights were also cancelled at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, which serve London.