Authorities struggled to remove abandoned cars and reopen still-slick highways across the nation's midsection yesterday after a record snowfall buried the region and stranded holiday...

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Authorities struggled to remove abandoned cars and reopen still-slick highways across the nation’s midsection yesterday after a record snowfall buried the region and stranded holiday travelers and shoppers.

Kentucky highways remained hazardous, with temperatures dipping below freezing in many areas and biting winds creating 5-foot snowdrifts.

“They’re about half-scared to drive fast today,” state Trooper Barry Meadows said.

A portion of Interstate 64 in Indiana reopened, a day after more than 100 stranded travelers were rescued from snowbound vehicles. But the road remained treacherous because of hundreds of abandoned vehicles along a 25-mile stretch near the Illinois line.

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Some Indiana churches canceled Christmas services to keep people off the road after much of the state was buried in up to 2 feet of snow.

“We were not asking parishioners to be out when police say to stay in,” said the Rev. Dave Ferry, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Bedford, Ind.

In Normal, Ill., wind-chill readings below zero compelled Epiphany Catholic Church to warm the camel, goats and sheep in its live Nativity scene with king-size electric blankets. The wise men, Mary and Joseph were given battery-powered heaters to carry in their pockets, and Jesus was played by a doll instead of a baby.

“That we wouldn’t want to risk,” Monsignor Eric Powell said.

I-40 reopened in parts of Arkansas, where stranded travelers awoke in shelters.

With frigid temperatures forecast for Ohio today, some 275,000 homes and businesses — about half of them in Columbus — remained without power two days after the storm hit, and ice-covered tree branches continued to fall onto power lines.

In Chicago, where the temperature was not expected to break 6 degrees and the wind chill was well below zero, sales clerks outnumbered shoppers in Chicago’s Marshall Field’s flagship store yesterday morning.

Shopper Mary Ann Holland, 57, of Chicago was thrilled to see no lines. “I always come early on Christmas Eve,” she said.

The Westfield Shoppingtown Southpark mall in suburban Cleveland decided to stay open three hours later on Christmas Eve, until 9 p.m., to make up for sluggish shopping during the sloppy storm.

“The weather has put a dent in it, and they want to recoup some of it,” said Tom Ford, who runs a kiosk that sells sports-team gear.

In Alaska, meanwhile, a different storm stranded motorists for nearly a day on a remote highway blanketed by snow drifts as high as 7 feet. Department of Transportation crews rescued about 30 people yesterday between Delta Junction and Paxson — on a stretch of road known as the Richardson Highway, about 150 miles south of Fairbanks, DOT spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said.

“We were fortunate that people came prepared,” she said.