Zone Sgt. Jason Cawley was confused.
A man named Kevin Kresen kept calling 911, insisting that he’d been snowed into his car during a historic storm in Owego, N.Y., early Thursday. His heater was broken, he couldn’t get out and he was feeling very, very cold.
New York State Police dispatched Cawley to investigate the calls but there was no sign of Kresen’s car at the side of the road.
Then he spotted the tip of a mailbox sticking out of the snow. Cawley wanted to check the address on the mailbox so he started digging it out.
He was partway through when he hit a windshield. It was Kresen’s car, and he was still alive inside.
“The man was suffering from hypothermia and frostbite,” police said in a statement on Thursday, hours after the 58-year-old was rescued and taken to hospital.
Police say Kresen had been forced onto the side of the road when the serpentine belt broke on his vehicle. Then a snowplow blocked him in and the snow continued to fall, until he was utterly trapped inside a snowbank.
“He had been plowed in by a truck and the car covered with close to four feet (1.2 metres) of snow,” police said.
Kresen was stuck for more than 10 hours, and he couldn’t start the car or turn on the heat because of his broken serpentine belt.
Photos released by police show Kresen and Cawley together in the hospital after the ordeal. Kresen’s hands appear black and blue from the cold, but he is awake and alert.
It was a happy ending to one of many urgent snow-related calls Thursday, as New York state dug out from a massive overnight storm.
The storm buried parts of upstate New York under a metre (three feet) of snow, shattering records and sending plow drivers scrambling to keep the roads clear. The snow fell at a rate of more than 10 centimetres an hour, dumping more snow in one storm than New York City saw all of last winter.
“If you do not have to be on the roads, please don’t travel,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who declared a state of emergency for 18 counties. He said there were more than 9,000 power outages, 600 accidents and two fatalities by midmorning Thursday.
—With files from The Associated Press