No. 8 Top News Story: Winter snowstorm blasts the North Fork

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Cars piled with snow in Cutchogue.
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Cars piled with snow in Cutchogue.

A mid-winter blizzard dumped more than a foot of snow on Southold Town, forcing police to free trapped drivers and Cutchogue firefighters to save four people from an electrical fire in the middle of the storm.

A former Southold policeman and firefighter — 72-year-old Fred Fiedler — died during the blizzard, when he suffered a heart attack while clearing away the piling snow.

The nor’easter struck the night of Feb. 8 into that weekend, dumping the most snow on the western edges of town. Southold Town saw about 13 inches of snow, dodging the more serious totals from towns farther up Long Island.

“Overall we were lucky,” said Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley.

The storm caused scattered power outages across the North Fork, at one point leaving almost all of Orient in the dark. But more serious winds or storm tides never hit the area, as town officials had feared.

During the storm, about 36 Cutchogue firefighters rushed to the scene of a fire on Tuthill Lane. Electric cables in the basement of the home caught fire when a transformer blew outside, filling the house with smoke.

The people inside — a woman and her three nieces, ages 7, 8 and 18 — were all safely moved to a waiting ambulance as firefighters doused the small fire.

Weather experts said the storm — which strengthened rapidly when two branches of the jet stream combined west of Long Island — will be remembered as one of the biggest blizzards in recorded history to hit Long Island.

“[The blizzard] will be looked upon as one of the more classic nor’easters to occur in this part of the nation,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Morrin. “Everything came together so exquisitely perfect.”

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.