The much-ballyhooed Great Blizzard of 2011 was more like the Great Fizzle.

What was supposed to have been the Bay Area's first measurable snowfall in 35 years Saturday turned into a light dusting here and there. And the snow melted before most people even rolled out of bed.

Some locations at higher elevations in Santa Cruz, Los Gatos and San Francisco reported a few early-morning flakes between midnight and 2 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. But nothing stuck. It also snowed a little more heavily Saturday afternoon in Gilroy and Salinas, but quickly melted.

Still, it was unusually cold: San Jose hit 33 degrees for the first time on this date since 1897. Downtown San Francisco registered 37 degrees, which hadn't happened since 1952, and San Francisco International Airport reported 36 degrees for the first time since 1971.

But that novelty didn't thrill San Jose real-estate broker John Kovaleski and his wife the way snow would have. They woke up at 6 a.m. in hopes of seeing the fluffy white stuff.

"We went back to sleep thinking, 'They blew it,' " he said, referring to the weather forecasters.

The reason it didn't snow is fairly simple, said Austin Cross, a weather service meteorologist: "Most of the rain came through before it got cold enough to snow."

The frigid overnight temperatures created black ice on Highway 4 near Hercules on Saturday morning. Numerous cars crashed on the icy surface after a broken storm drain on an overpass leaked water onto the freeway. Westbound lanes were closed for a number of hours, the CHP said.

When the weather system dissipated, so did the dreams of snowball fights for thousands of kids.

The closest 7-year-old Isiah Limu of San Jose got to a big round ball of cold stuff was a cookies-and-cream ice cream cone at Baskin & Robbins on The Alameda on Saturday afternoon. Still, not being able to play in the snow left more time for Isiah's favorite pastime -- video games.

The snow window has most likely passed, forecasters said late Saturday. Temperatures are expected to warm up a tad to the mid-50s Sunday and rise Monday. Rain could return Tuesday and Wednesday -- in other words, a more familiar Bay Area winter weather pattern.

San Jose native Loretta Callahan was particularly disappointed by the bare ground because she has no lasting record of the snowstorm of 1976.

"Mom took all these pictures of us playing," said Callahan, a nanny. "But she forgot to put film in the camera."

All the hype about the possible snowfall left many disappointed, but not surprised.

"I was looking forward to it all week," said Cassie Shambaugh, 25, of Newark, who has lived in the Bay Area all her life and never seen a snowfall. "I have a weather app on my phone, and I was checking the forecast daily for changes."

Steven Kessler, of Walnut Creek, took his 4-year-old son, Jack, to Mount Diablo last week for a summit snowball fight but was turned back by the crowds.

"It would have been cool if it snowed," said Kessler, who instead played with his son at the nearly deserted Heather Farm Park playground in Walnut Creek. "But I wasn't surprised. How can you trust the weatherman?"

But there are plenty of transplants from snowier parts of the country who agree more with comedian Carl Reiner's view: "A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water."

Michael Williams grew up in Indiana, which averages about two feet of snow annually -- still too much for him. He was satisfied Saturday to be on the snowless valley floor of The Alameda and gaze up at the distant view of snow on Mt. Hamilton.

Said Williams: "I don't want to live anywhere again where there is snow and no palm trees."

Mercury News staff writer Tracey Kaplan contributed to this report. Contact John Boudreau at 408-278-3496.

RECORD-BREAKING lows
Saturday temperatures broke and tied records for the date.
Record-breaking lows:
Oakland: 34 degrees; previously 38 in 1987
Oakland International Airport: 32 degrees; previously 34 in 1962
San Francisco Airport: 35 degrees; previously 36 in 1971
Napa: 27 degrees; previously 30 degrees in 1945
Record-tying lows:
San Francisco: 37 degrees; tied from 1962
Mountain View: 34 degrees; tied from 1962
San Jose: 33 degrees; tied from 1897
-- National Weather Service