Oh, what a beautiful day

Storm left the area largely unscathed

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By Billy Baker and Eric Moskowitz
Globe Staff / December 29, 2010

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Sunshine and snowmelt brought the Boston region to life yesterday and provided the first sign of normalcy a day after a post-Christmas blizzard pummeled the Northeast.

For many, the day was an opportunity to embrace what is beloved about the snow — sledding hills were filled with children — and to remember everything that is not.

At Jimmy’s Shoe Repair in Cambridge, the phone had been ringing all morning. “Yes, we do waterproofing,’’ owner Galust Khaytyan said into the receiver.

“This happens every year after it snows for the first time,’’ he said after hanging up. “I don’t know why people wear leather shoes in the snow. Leather can’t compete with salt. Salt is always going to win.’’

In some coastal communities the storm wreaked havoc. But in most areas, the impact of the storm boiled down to salt-stained shoe leather, sore backs from shoveling, and a slight dose of cabin fever. The 18.2 inches recorded in Boston made the storm the 10th largest in nearly 120 years of record keeping, but it had few trappings of a nor’easter-for-the-ages.

“This storm will be remembered for things that won’t be remembered,’’ said Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey B. Mullan, taking satisfaction in the way the Boston area fared, especially weighed against some other parts of the Northeast, where motorists and transit riders were stranded.

There were no abandoned cars and no highway fatalities, and the major highways and state roads were all passable by morning, with communities finishing the cleanup on secondary roads.

Power outages struck 55,000 customers at the worst point Monday, but that number paled in comparison with the 350,000 who lost power during the December 2008 ice storm. By yesterday afternoon, that number was down to about 6,000, most of them National Grid customers in coastal areas, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

In Coolidge Corner in Brookline, stores and restaurants were crowded at lunchtime, as the sunshine turned sidewalk ice into slush. Inside the Magic Bean, a toy store, owner Eli Gurock said the storm had been good for business, which typically slows after the holidays.

“We’ve been selling a ton of sleds,’’ Gurock said. “We were only open for a few hours [Monday], and we sold out. We restocked overnight and we sold out again today.’’

Gurock said that parents who were not looking for sleds were interested in indoor activities to keep children occupied, such as art kits and family games.

“Things that sell really well around a storm are toys with finite endings, where you can really engage with kids for an hour or two and then have a finished product,’’ he said.

Atop Peters Hill in the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Cody Edgerly had his sled and was ready to catch some air.

“You’ve got to have a low part for the drop-in,’’ Edgerly, a 14-year-old from Amherst, said as he packed snow around a jump he was building.

“Then you need a nice little point at the top to flip you up.’’

Sleds were not the only things running. Nearly all of the MBTA’s service was operating without delays or rerouting. Amtrak ran limited service yesterday in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, but most of the cancellations were on the southern end of the line.

Many area attractions that closed Monday reopened yesterday to crowds of families eager to get out of the house.

“It’s getting back to normal as people dig their way out,’’ said Boston Children’s Museum spokeswoman Jo-Anne Baxter, who could gauge the crowd by the noise in her office.

School vacation is one of the busiest times of the year, but the museum was closed Monday to respect the state of emergency declared by Governor Deval Patrick. The state of emergency was lifted at 10 a.m. yesterday.

At the New England Aquarium, the penguins on the plaza remained frozen; those would be the ice sculptures, which had been covered by protective tarps during the storm. The real penguins inside were back on the job, entertaining the crowds.

By midafternoon, the aquarium was projecting about 5,000 visitors for the day, according to spokesman Tony LaCasse. It was still about 10 or 15 percent below a typical vacation Tuesday, he said.

In Canton, the Blue Hills Ski Area stayed open during the storm, though crowds were thin.

Yesterday, it was swamped, as skiers flocked to the facility to take advantage of a foot and a half of new snow, dotting the slopes and packing a vacation-week camp.

“We are very, very busy,’’ said Tania Eicoff, one of the managers. “It’s definitely at least 10 times more crowded’’ than Monday.

The US Postal Service did double-duty for many Boston ZIP codes yesterday, after packages, letters, and magazines coming from outside the area were delayed because of flight cancellations, according to Dennis Tarmey, a spokesman for the USPS.

Paul Brennan, who was delivering mail on Buchanan Road in West Roxbury yesterday afternoon, said Monday was a rare break for letter carriers, who famously go out in all weather.

“It would have been torture out here,’’ Brennan said. “But today, it’s almost nice. I’d prefer it to be spring time, but what are you going to do?’’

Billy Baker can be reached at Eric Moskowitz can be reached at