Drivers reported being stuck for over 10 hours in queues up to 30 miles long as police, snow ploughs and gritting lorries struggled to respond to the icy weather. Motorists abandoned their vehicles, seeking refuge in service stations as temperatures plunged as low as -3C in places on Monday night.
A group of 120 German students were left stranded at Hastings town hall when families due to look after them could not reach them.
Sussex and Kent were the worst affected areas with the A23 between Crawley and Kent left at a standstill, along with the M23, A26, A27 and A29 after four inches of snow fell.
Still very cold in the wind this morning but a beautiful blue sky with a few cumulus clouds passing by – twitpic.com/capg7z
Jonathan Lara said it took him eight hours to travel less than eight miles after leaving work at Gatwick airport to go home to Brighton. Speaking to the BBC from his car, he said: “It looks like the gritters have been totally caught out by this. I’ve been stuck in the same place for about three-and-half hours now and it looks like I’m going to be here for hours yet.”
A Kent Police spokesman said officers had worked through the night to help motorists and warned of continuing travel difficulties this morning. The worst affected areas were Dover and Folkestone.
The Highways Agency worked with emergency services and local authorities to respond to hundreds of incidents caused by heavy snow and strong winds on roads in Kent and Sussex.
“We treated our roads continually throughout the afternoon and during the night, but a large number of incidents, including heavy goods vehicles breaking down on hills, caused closures at several locations,” a spokesperson for the agency said.
“As a result, a number of our salt spreaders and recovery vehicles then became caught in the traffic.
“Strong winds, gusting at speeds of up to 50mph, created snow drifts of up to a metre in height, in many cases blowing snow back on to the carriageway as soon as it had been cleared.