THE hopes of tens of thousands of passengers trying to travel home for Christmas dimmed last night as the Big Freeze caused travel chaos at home and abroad.
In Dublin, 40,000 people were left stranded as the country's main airport experienced its "worst day in 30 years" and was shut down until 7am today.
And tens of thousands more commuters in the UK, Europe and the US were desperately trying to make alternative travel arrangements to get home for Christmas.
There was widespread travel chaos last night with bus services stopped in many parts of the country from 5.30pm.
Dublin Airport was forced to turn people away because of "claustrophobic" conditions caused by overcrowding.
Thousands of motorists were caught up in gridlock outside the capital after a truck was involved in an accident on the M1 motorway near Balbriggan.
And as local authorities struggle to keep roads open because of critically low levels of salt supplies, new figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal just three councils -- Donegal, Carlow and Cavan -- ordered extra stocks.
Heavy showers dumped up to 12cm of snow in parts of Munster, Connacht and Leinster yesterday.
Roads across large parts of the country are expected to remain treacherous up until Christmas Eve, meaning thousands of people may not make it home.
Dublin Airport last night said it was the "worst day in 30 years" after heavy snowfall and poor visibility forced it to close at noon.
Massive queues snaked from the entrance of the airport throughout the departures area as thousands of exhausted and frustrated travellers scrambled to re-book flights or get refunds after the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) announced all flights in and out of the airport were suspended until this morning.
Passengers were asked to leave the airport and re-book their flights online in a bid to ease the "claustrophobic" atmosphere engulfing the airport.
Approximately 230 flights were cancelled, leaving more than 40,000 passengers facing the prospect of being grounded for several days.
Last night, the recently finished but still virtually unused Terminal Two in Dublin Airport was kept open to allow stranded passengers find somewhere to sleep.
All airlines advised passengers not to travel to the airport today unless they have checked the status of their flights beforehand at www.daa.ie.
Aer Lingus is planning extra flights to try to get as many of its passengers as possible in and out of Dublin Airport.
A number of Aer Arann's services which were due to travel today have been cancelled -- including Knock to Dublin, Donegal to Dublin, Sligo to Dublin and flights between Dublin and Derry.
There were long delays for commuters in the evening peak in Dublin, Cork and Galway.
Trucks became stuck on off-ramps on the M50 in Dublin, there was gridlock on the N11 and M1 and road conditions in large parts of the city were extremely dangerous.
While main roads across the country remain open, salt supplies are running low.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) said 6,300 tonnes would arrive into Cork tomorrow night. Up to 3,000 tonnes a night will be used to help people make their journey home.
Met Eireann said temperatures will remain below freezing up to Christmas Day. Forecaster Gerald Fleming said the east remained at risk of further snowfall up to this evening, and that a record low for December was recorded in Mayo at minus 17.2C.