David Higgins, his wife and 5-year-old daughter Hannah were headed for a skiing vacation when their GMC Yukon got stuck in a blizzard Monday on U.S. Highway 412 outside the town of Clayton, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"It got to the point where it was a complete whiteout," Higgins, a firefighter from Pasadena, said. "You couldn't even see anything other than white."
Higgins and his wife used their cellphones to call 911. Dispatchers told the family to conserve their gas and to keep the vehicle's muffler clear of snow, running the engine for 10 or 15 minutes and then turning it off.
Higgins did that two or three times but when he decided to check the muffler at 5 p.m. he couldn't open the door as a solid wall of snow had built up against the vehicle.
"We became encased in a vehicle igloo," Higgins said. "You could roll the window down and it just slid down, and you could touch it, and it was solid."
The family had three flashlights in the car, along with two cases of water, food, two sleeping bags, two pillows and their ski gear.
"I mean, we were really fairly well-supplied and then we had our two cellphones. Every now and then, we'd get a signal and that's how we were calling out, calling 911, and calling our families," he said.
About 1 a.m. Wednesday, rescuers using poles to search the snow struck the top of the Yukon then dug down to the driver's side window.
The rescuers broke the window of the Yukon with an ax and pulled the family out a 4-foot snow tunnel to the surface.