Heavy snow and strong winds caused more travel chaos yesterday as fore-casters gave the welcome news that the end of the cold snap was in sight.

Dozens of road crashes across the country were caused by the icy conditions and airports were forced to divert flights as runways became blanketed in snow.

More than 200 cars were left stranded when strong winds caused 3ft snow drifts in blizzard-hit East Yorkshire.

And in North Lanark-shire in Scotland an 84-year-old man died in a sixcar pile-up in freezing conditions.

Snow fell for much of the day in the east of England and Scotland, with up to 8in settling on high ground as temperatures remained freezing.

Planes in and out of Newcastle International Airport were affected. Two services to Dublin and Belfast were cancelled while six domestic and international flights were delayed.

And at Stansted Airport, in Essex, the runway was shut for 30 minutes, with two Ryanair jets diverted to Bournemouth. The airport was operating normally by lunchtime. Luton Airport was also badly affected.

In nearby Kent, the weather brought rush-hour traffic chaos and a spate of minor collisions as heavy snowfalls hit roads around Dartford, Canterbury and Ashford.

Snow reached recorded depths of 4in on the York-shire moors but was thought to have been almost double that in some areas.

Firefighters and the Highways Agency used a snowplough to dig out about 200 cars marooned by snow reported to be 3ft deep on the A1079 near Market Weighton, in East Yorkshire. Police officers used 4x4 vehicles to take h ot drinks to those trapped.

The severe weather has also hit much of northern Europe with heavy snow storms and ice leaving drivers cut off and causing a number of car crashes.

Warm air from the Atlantic brought higher temperatures to many in the UK as the day went on but heavy rain also prompted a new warning to drivers. Much of the snow across the UK turned to sleet and rain as warmer air moved in from the West bringing temperatures as high as 12C in the Southwest and 4C in the Midlands. Much of the North and East struggled to climb

above freezing. The PA WeatherCentre said the latest radar images showed the only snow falling by the afternoon was over parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, with the earlier heavy snowfalls over the North-east moving over the North Sea.

Everyone will notice milder weather across the country this weekend. "It will be milder everywhere with temperatures in the south reaching 10 or 11C by tomorrow and between 6 and 8C in the Midlands," a WeatherCentre spokesman

said. Despite the freezing conditions, average temperatures for December have fallen just half a degree below the norm, with 2005 in general being among the hottest five years since the records began.