Snowstorm survivor: I knew I was 'never going to see' boyfriend again

Dec. 10, 2012 at 9:51 AM ET

A Nevada woman who survived in the California mountains by eating snow and green tomatoes for six days recalled having a dark premonition when her boyfriend said he was going to search for help.

Paula Lane, 46, a mother of twins, and her boyfriend, Roderick Clifton, 44, were stranded on Nov. 29 on the way to visit family in Nevada after Clifton’s Jeep was caught in a snowdrift off State Route 88 in Hope Valley, near Lake Tahoe. The couple spent the night in the vehicle with no cell phone service, and the next morning Clifton decided to brave the storm despite Lane’s pleas to stay put.

“(It was) 9:09 in the morning,’’ Lane told NBC News, in an interview from her hospital bed that aired on TODAY Monday. “I remember looking at my watch, and I said, ‘Please just wait and let’s ride this out together. It’s smarter.’ (Clifton) just went like this with his hand, and that’s the last I saw of him. He walked away. I knew I was never going to see him again.’’

Story: Woman suffers only minor frostbite in six-day ordeal in California mountains

Rescuers recovered Clifton's body six days later.

Three days after she last saw Clifton, Lane also ventured out of the vehicle, taking advantage of a break in the storm to try to find help. She sustained herself on snow and some green tomatoes that she had brought on the trip, and employed survival skills she learned from her brother, making socks out of Kleenex and masking tape and using a loud whistle to try to get the attention of potential rescuers.

Her brother, Gary Lane, and friend Brian Roff commandeered a tractor to help search for Lane, eventually finding her shivering in a hollow tree of State Route 88 six days after they had last heard from her. Rescuers also located the couple's Jeep, completely buried under the snow.

“I heard somebody whistle, and (Gary Lane) goes, ‘That’s her!’’ Roff told NBC News. “He yelled out, ‘Hey baby I’m here, and we’re coming to get you.’’’

“I’ve seen her (give) many different looks in her life, and that look right there, that’s the best one I’ve ever seen,’’ Gary Lane told NBC News.

Lane survived with only a minor case of frostbite and is recuperating in Carson-Tahoe Hospital in Carson City, Nev.

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