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First snowfall leaves some to ask, ‘Is that it?’

Winter finally makes itself known with the first significant snowfall in the area

Boston, MA 012112 Sang Nguyen (cq) of Charlestown uses a coat hanger to clear the snow off her windshield during the snow fall on Saturday near the Boston Common i January 21, 2012. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)/ MET

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

Sang Nguyen of Charlestown tried an innovative approach to clear snow from the windshield of her car yesterday near the Boston Common.

It was before noon yesterday when Bob Leone paused in a slush-covered Allston parking lot after five hours on the road, and uttered the Boston-area plow driver’s prayer.

‘‘Finally,’’ said Leone, 49, of Newton. ‘‘We get a day’s work.’’

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He was among many who expressed surprise, relief, and delight, after the winter’s first significant snowfall dropped 3.8 inches on the Back Bay, buried the Cape and southern Massachusetts, and left 12.5 inches in Fairhaven. Sure, roadways were slick and driveways needed shoveling, but some interviewed said the daylong storm was a welcome reminder that this is still NewEngland.

‘‘It was a little creepy that it didn’t snow for so long,’’ said Danielle Thomas, of Jamaica Plain, who strolled near Jamaica Pond yesterday with Courtney Kimmel, and Bugsy, a 9-year-old Boston terrier.

All were bundled for the occasion— including Bugsy, in a blue dog sweater and black dog boots.

‘‘I’m glad it’s snowing — but not like 72 inches,’’ Thomas said, referring to the near-weekly storms last winter.

By this time last year the city had already taken a pounding, and recorded more than 47 inches of the white stuff between Dec. 20, 2010 and Jan. 21, 2011, according to data gathered by the National Weather Service.

In comparison, this winter’s total is simply whatever fell yesterday. There was also the inch of snow that fell in Boston in the prewinter storm last October.

‘‘Compared to what you can get in New England, this isn’t much of a big deal,’’ said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Taunton station.

By last April, 80.1 inches had fallen on the region, breaking many city and town snow removal budgets and flummoxing school administrators and parents who had to deal with steady school cancellations.

But not this year.

A freak October storm that slammed the central and western part of the state petered out by the time it reached Boston, leaving a scant inch on the ground the day before Halloween.

Discounting Thursday’s warm-up round of flurries, yesterday marked the end of nearly three months of snowless weather.

But it was not enough for David Hafey, who shoveled the sidewalk in front of his Columbus Avenue apartment building, unimpressed. ‘‘Oh please, this is nothing,’’ said the 28-year resident of Boston. ‘‘Last year, every week we had a snow emergency.’’

Some who work outdoors, such as John Gioiosa, , a letter carrier for 25 years, embraced the snowless version of winter.

‘‘It’s a lot easier without the snow,’’ said Gioiosa, who must contend on his South End route with slick walkways and treacherous climbs up neighborhood stoops. ‘‘Most people don’t get out and shovel before we hit the streets.’’

But left in the lurch by the mild weather were plow drivers like Leone, who must contend with the burgeoning cost of doing business as well as a dependence on Mother Nature to stir up some flakes.

Before his yellow plow blade can scrape asphalt, Leone said it costs him more than $150 to fill his truck’s two-ton salt hopper, and nearly $100 to top up on diesel fuel.

Much of those costs get passed on to customers, who can no longer count on $20 driveway plow jobs.

He must charge between $40 and $50 to clear a private driveway to keep pace, he said.

In all, it takes several hundred dollars in a day to break even. Asked if he could sustain the business at such a slow pace, he shrugged.

‘‘We’ll have to make it work,’’ Leone said.

At Logan International Airport, a few flights were canceled or delayed by midmorning, said Lisa Langone, spokeswoman for MassPort. Work crews were prepared for the precipitation, she said.

State plow drivers were mustered early, as well, said Frank DePaola, a highway administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Minor accidents busied road crews on route 495 southbound near Bolton, and on route 24 in Raynham, both where tractor trailers jackknifed, snarling traffic, said Trooper Thomas Murphy, spokesman for the State Police. Speed limits were also briefly reduced to 40 miles-per hour on the Massachusetts Turnpike. But no one was hurt in the crashes, he said.

Crews in Western Massachusetts rose at 2 a.m. to attend to the storm. Many worked through the night, he said.

About 2,050 of the state’s available 3,900 trucks were deployed to criss-cross state roadways, he said.

‘‘By the time it was beginning to snow, at that point all of our people were mobilized,’’ he said. ‘‘We stay ahead of the storm.’’

The flirtation with serious winter weather will ease off at the beginning of the week, however, as temperatures are expected to rise into the 40s Monday and possibly hit the 50s by Tuesday, said Lance Franck, meteorologist at the Taunton station.

In parks and open spaces around the city, parents, children, and pets were out in force. At the Southwest Corridor Park in the South End, Tom Rizzo was taking a close companion for his first romp in the snowscape. Lukis, a shelter dog from Arkansas, had nary touched powder before.

‘‘He’s trying to figure out what all that wet stuff is stuck to his paws,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘But he’s fine, he’s built for this.’’

Matt Byrne can be reached at mbyrne.globe@gmail.com. Dan Adams and Miriam Valverde, Globe correspondents, contributed to this report.
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