Hundreds of motorists were stranded on the M6 in Lancashire after a lorry jack-knifed in the snowy conditions.
The accident happened at about 0030 and tailbacks are affecting drivers on the M61 and M62.
There are no reports of serious injuries, but Lancashire Police say a major incident plan has been put in place.
Motorists are being advised not to travel and police say it could take several more hours to clear the roads.
Northbound traffic between junctions 26 and 27 is said to be moving, but the three lanes remained blocked until shortly after 0500 GMT.
The incident caused delays of up to 90 minutes on the northbound stretch of the M61.
One motorist, Stephen Derbyshire, told BBC Five Live he was stuck in his vehicle on the M6 with a pregnant colleague.
“What is particularly frustrating is the lack of information here, and we’ve only seen emergency vehicles pass us twice within the last three-and-a-half hours.”
He added: “Luckily my pregnant colleague is coping fairly well with it but there hasn’t actually been that much snow, I mean I would say there’s four, five inches of snow and it shouldn’t really cause this amount of mayhem.”
Police say there have been a number of other collisions, but they were not believed to be serious.
The North West of England has been badly hit by snow with reports of up to 10in falling in places.
In Chesham in Buckinghamshire temperatures dropped to -13C overnight.
At Gatwick, where EasyJet have cancelled all flights until at least 1000 GMT, the temperature fell to -11C. Bristol Airport will be closed until at least 0700 GMT.
On Friday nearly a quarter of all train services were subject to delays with similar problems expected during Saturday with operators in the south, including Southeastern and Southern Railway, running reduced services.
Severe weather warnings of heavy snow and widespread icy roads are in place for London and the South East, the South West, the Midlands, the North West and Yorkshire and Humber.
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