By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) - A college student stranded in her car for nine days on a barren northern Arizona road has been rescued after living on candy bars and melted snow, authorities said on Thursday.
Arizona State University student Lauren Weinberg, 23, was found Wednesday by two U.S. Forest Service employees patrolling on snowmobiles, Coconino County Sheriff's Office patrol Lieutenant Jim Coffey said.
The discovery came the same day a Texas family was rescued from their sports utility vehicle, trapped for at least 36 hours under a heavy snow drift in New Mexico, police said.
Weinberg, found about 46 miles from the town of Winslow, was reported missing after she was last seen in Phoenix on December 11, the sheriff's office said.
On December 12, Weinberg was driving her sedan in northern Arizona, with no specific destination in mind, when her car got stuck in over 18 inches of snow, Coffey said.
She was stuck near what is a "well traveled" highway in the summer, Coffey said. "But in winter like this, it becomes impassible," he added.
Weinberg survived on two candy bars and a clear plastic bottle she filled with snow, which she allowed to melt in the sun, the sheriff's office said. She was taken by patrol car to Flagstaff Medical Center.
"There was concerns over frostbite and the dehydration, to make sure she was evaluated," Coffey said.
She was "very happy to be alive and appeared to be in good health," he said.
Weinberg has since been released from the hospital, medical center spokeswoman Starla Collins said.
"I am so thankful to be alive and warm," Weinberg said in a statement released by the hospital.
"Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers, because they worked. There were times I was afraid but mostly I had faith I would be found," she said.
Weinberg could not be reached for further comment.
Coconino County authorities had not been actively looking for Weinberg based on a missing person report filed more than 100 miles to the south with Phoenix police, Coffey said.
The forest service employees who found Weinberg were on patrol to see if winter road closure gates were secure, the sheriff's office said.
The Texas family of three -- parents Yvonne and David Higgins and their 5-year-old daughter, Hannah -- was discovered early on Wednesday, after authorities received a call saying their GMC Yukon was stuck in a snow drift on an isolated, wind-swept highway near the town of Springer, New Mexico, said State Police spokesman Lieutenant Robert McDonald.
The SUV got stuck in the snow on Monday and became buried in a drift over eight feet deep during a powerful storm, McDonald said. The family was stranded for between 36 and 48 hours, until a rescue team located the vehicle by striking it with a metal probe pushed into the snow, police said.
The family members, who were clinging to each other and lethargic, were taken by ambulance to a hospital in Raton, New Mexico, police said.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez said in a statement the "family was saved from a life-threatening emergency" and the three are "now recovering from their injuries."
(Additional reporting by Dennis Carroll: Editing by Jerry Norton)