On February 28, 81-year-old Jerry Jouret’s family reported him missing. He’d left Big Pine, California four days earlier and was headed home to Gardnerville, Nevada only to be caught up in the massive storm that brought record-breaking snowfall through the Sierras and even blanketed lower elevations that rarely, if ever, see any snow at all. That last part explains why Jouret wasn’t exactly prepared to drive through a major snowstorm, wearing just a light windbreaker while attempting to beat the weather home.
During the drive, Jouret reportedly veered off onto a smaller road near Gilbert Pass east of Bishop, Calif. His SUV was stuck. He had that windbreaker jacket, a light quilt, and a hotel bath towel for warmth. His food supply was made up of the croissants, candy, and biscotti in his car. So for almost an entire week, the former NASA employee rationed the little food he had and eventually started rolling down his car window just enough to grab some snow to eat. His car battery died on the third day while he was rolling the window back up, leaving it cracked open just a few inches for the next several days while temps dropped into the teens. Ironically, he’d soon be grateful the battery died with the window open and not while it was closed.
Meanwhile, Inyo County Search and Rescue teams had to delay their search after the initial report because the weather was so severe but on March 2, a cell phone ping helped CHP narrow down Jouret’s possible location. They sent out helicopter crews and one chopper, in particular, spotted what looked like a large boulder as it was about to refuel. The pilot then noticed an arm waving at them and realized it was Jouret waving from that opening in the window.
Surprisingly, Jouret only spent a couple of hours in a local hospital after being found. He’d shown no signs of hypothermia after days of being trapped, so he was released and finally finished out the last leg of the trip on a bus ride home to Big Pine.
“If someone gets trapped, don’t give up hope,” Jouret’s grandson, Christian told CNN. “Some of us thought he was a goner. Never give up hoping. The human body is amazing for what it can endure.”