When last seen, the thing was howling through upper New England, ready to exit into the North Atlantic.

But before the Storm of '03 departed, it dropped more record-breaking deposits of snow in Providence and Boston, snarling traffic, closing airports and sending would-be travelers to the cots for a second night running. Even that secular holy day, the Presidents' Day sale, yielded to nature as malls closed throughout southern New England.

Boston recorded the highest snowfall since the advent of such records, in 1892. Logan International Airport recorded 27.5 inches -- 0.4 inches more than during the Blizzard of 1978. There were massive drifts and disappeared cars and all that. In the end, though, New Englanders continued to pride themselves on insouciance in the face of snow-related adversity.

So Bostonians hauled out the cross-country skis and snowshoes, dug out parking spaces (some set out the traditional lawn chairs as placeholders) and kind of yawned. Schools were closed, but by day's end, Boston had begun to recall some of its 450 snowplow operators.

"What a difference a day makes," said Boston spokeswoman Carole Brennan, whose boss, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, slept in a recliner in his office Monday night. "It certainly wasn't as bad a storm as '78, even though there was more snow that fell."

Meteorologists got into the act, affecting no particular excitement at this particular Nor'easter. The storm turned into a blizzard, and a modest one at that, only as it spun into New England in its last hours over land.

"The storm itself, even though it did produce a little bit more snow than the '78 storm, structurally, it's not a storm of the century," said meteorologist William Babcock, of the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.

"It could," he noted in a most deflating way, "end up being a storm of the decade."

Those further south dealt with the day after, when the winter of a child's eye yields to slush and slosh and vast piles of rapidly graying -- and yellowing -- snow. With temperatures projected to top 50 degrees by week's end, the talk in Manhattan was of a run on Armani hip waders. New York, with 19.8 inches of snow measured in Central Park, had the fourth-largest recorded accumulation in its history.

Amy Hotal stood at Columbus Circle and surveyed an icy gray puddle of indeterminate depth and unknown chemical composition. Dipping a work-booted toe into what she called "the liquid," she repressed a shudder. "Slush," she said, "is disgusting."

Along Brooklyn's Seventh Avenue, deliveryman Joe Davilla eyed the lumpy ridge of snow that separated his dolly heavy with eight cases of Old Milwaukee beer and a waiting supermarket. For just a moment, he was Hannibal sizing up the Alps. Then he shrugged.

"Let me tell you, this is going to get really tired in another day or two," Davilla said. "I tell my boss this morning, man, I need a crane to deliver this beer."

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pronounced most of the city's 6,300 miles of roads reasonably clear of snow, even taking on the plowman's lingo.

"As of a little while ago, the Sanitation Department had plowed 100 percent of the primary streets, 92 percent of the secondary streets and 75 percent of the tertiary streets," Bloomberg said this morning, as a light snow swirled around him.

But in New York, as in Philadelphia and Boston and Providence and throughout Connecticut, the snow had blown a hole in the snow-removal budget. New York City placed the cost of snow removal at $1 million per inch, not to mention the loss to the city economy as many small stores remained closed.

In Connecticut, Gov. John G. Rowland said the state was down to its last $2 million for snow removal -- before the latest storm arrived. "Our budget has been depleted today," he said Monday.

Connecticut recently laid off 178 public works employees, and Rowland acknowledged that the state lacked enough drivers to operate about 10 of its 650 snow-removal trucks and plows.

Back in Brooklyn, Davilla figured it out. He persuaded five supermarket workers to put on coats and form a human chain over the Seventh Avenue snow ridge. They passed the cases of Old Milwaukee up and down, Davilla shouting encouragement. Not a bottle cracked.

Davilla professed no surprise. "Don't worry 'bout me," he said. "Snow isn't going to mess me up."

Ferdinand reported from Boston. Staff writer Christine Haughney in New York contributed to this report.

A pile of plowed snow confronts pedestrians on Lexington Avenue in New York. The city got 19.8 inches of snow, its fourth-highest total, and snow removal may cost $20 million.