Mother Nature delivered a bone-chilling Christmas to much of the nation yesterday, but hordes of holiday travelers were on the roads despite record snow that had shut down highways...

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Mother Nature delivered a bone-chilling Christmas to much of the nation yesterday, but hordes of holiday travelers were on the roads despite record snow that had shut down highways two days earlier in the central states.

South Texas awoke to a rare blanket of snow, when up to 13 inches shattered records for the region. The deep freeze brought Victoria its first white Christmas in 86 years and snarled holiday plans for thousands of travelers.

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“It’s totally snowed over,” Tawnya Evans, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi, said yesterday.

“A bunch of people are excited because it’s a white Christmas.”

Much of the snow melted throughout Christmas Day as temperatures warmed into the 30s and 40s, but Evans said some of it could refreeze overnight.

Conditions on Indiana highways were improving yesterday, two days after a winter storm dumped up to 2 feet of snow in some areas, followed by subzero temperatures.

Indiana State Police said Interstate 65 near Seymour was still slick in spots yesterday, but traffic was moving. Authorities said snow or ice still covered almost all highways in southern Indiana.

The wintry mix had caused hourslong delays on I-65 about midway between Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky., on Friday, when several semitrailers were jackknifed or stuck.

A few small churches in rural areas of south-central Indiana canceled Christmas services, while even more called off Christmas Eve services to keep parishioners off the treacherous roadways.

Parts of Louisiana had a slightly white Christmas, and freezing rain, sleet and low temperatures forced state police to shut down interstates and highways.

The New Orleans mass-transit system halted all buses and streetcars because of sleet and icy streets and rail tracks, spokeswoman Rosalind Cook said. “They’re having problems … with the buses operating, and some of our operators are having trouble getting into work,” Cook said.

Still, the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicted a record 62 million people, including about 51 million motorists, would be traveling this weekend and next.

“We feel it’s attributed to consumer confidence being up and people feeling more comfortable traveling post Sept. 11,” national AAA spokeswoman Aymee Ruiz said yesterday.