AFTER playing hooky for two months, winter arrived in the East this weekend with an attitude, dumping up to a foot of snow in blizzard-like conditions from Kentucky to Maine.
And though the accumulation has stopped for now, whipping winds and meat-locker temperatures are expected to linger for several days. Wind-chill advisories have been issued throughout New England, with high temperatures not expected above freezing for the rest of the week.
The storm started in the Midwest on Friday, with 10 inches of snow settling on New York City, six inches on parts of Kentucky and Washington, D.C., and at least as much on Boston.
Snow gear tumbled from the backs of closets as East Coasters either combatted or cavorted in their first winter weather of the year. Homeowners grudgingly scraped sidewalks while others winged snowballs at each other.
''I've been dying to do something in the snow, and it's finally playtime,'' said Scott Tougas, a Cambridge, Mass., resident trying out his cross-country skis -- on a city sidewalk -- for the first time this year.
The unseasonably late snowstorm was welcome news to Chantal and Joaquin Luciano, who were making snow angels and preparing to build a snowman in their front yard on Saturday. By this time last year, Boston had recorded 46.3 inches of snow.
''I can just remember last year all too well,'' said Sarah Manning as she shoveled out her car.
''I was hoping to have no snow this winter,'' she said, ''but the groundhog is a liar!'' The snowfall started a day after the groundhog did not see his shadow, supposedly signaling an early spring.
New England ski resorts, after this winter's bad-for-business warmth, measured from 15 to 20 inches of fresh powder. But strong winds may make it difficult for some runs to open.
Behind the snow sports and winter frivolity, the foul weather was responsible for numerous fender-benders and at least four traffic deaths. The snow, sleet, and wind hit the homeless and poor hard throughout the region.
Boston's Commissioner of Public Works Joseph Casazza said the storm had not caused as much damage in the Boston area as it was feared it might. But, he said, ''this storm has its own little personality, and we haven't seen the worst of it yet.
''The killer on this one is what's going to happen when the temperatures go right down into the deep freeze,'' he said.