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Stranded on Iowa road for nearly four days, woman, 72, survives on kombucha, fruitcake

Terry Harnish of Canada got stranded on a muddy Iowa road on Thanksgiving day and survived for more than three days on kombucha and Christmas fruitcake. A group of teenagers on snowmobiles found her.
Terry Harnish of Canada got stranded on a muddy Iowa road on Thanksgiving day and survived for more than three days on kombucha and Christmas fruitcake. A group of teenagers on snowmobiles found her. Facebook/Terry Harnish

Celebrating Thanksgiving with American friends turned into a nightmare for a 72-year-old Canadian woman who was stranded for nearly four days on a muddy, isolated, rural Iowa road until snowmobilers found her after a blizzard rolled in.

Luckily, she’d done a little shopping before she set out.

“I had a fruitcake that I’d bought that morning — a Christmas fruitcake — and two bottles of kombucha,” Terry Harnish of Hubbards, Nova Scotia, told the CBC. “That was it, for four days.”

On Thanksgiving afternoon she took a wrong turn in her rental car and wound up on a road outside of Fairfield, Iowa, that’s not traveled much at this time of year, local police told The Des Moines Register.

When she realized the road was thick with mud she tried to make a U-turn and head back to the paved road but went over an embankment, Harnish told the CBC. “I was up to my axles in mud,” she said.

She decided to get out and walk to one of the farmhouses she had passed along the way — she didn’t have her cell phone with her — but she couldn’t do it in the mud without falling down.

She told the Register she’d had a recent knee replacement and, after one of several falls in the mud, she lay on the ground for two hours before she could get back up.

Around 1 a.m., after several hours outside the car, she managed to return to it. But she couldn’t turn it on.

“The key to my car was so covered with mud that I could not put the ignition on,” she said, according to Radio Canada. “So I lay on the seat, all wet, all night, shuddering.”

She managed to chip the mud off the keys in the morning and ran the rented Nissan off and on to stay warm, she told the Register.

She ran out of gas early Sunday, when temperatures were below freezing and a blizzard that eventually dumped 11 inches on the area began blowing in, the Register reported.

Then she heard it.

Snowmobiles.

“I’d put my hazard lights on when I heard them approaching and my headlights. And they stopped their snowmobiles, and they were just teenagers,” Harnish told the CBC. “They looked inside the car and screamed, ‘Oh my god, she’s alive!’”

She came out of the ordeal without any serious injuries. “I’m doing well for a 72-year-old spinster,” she told the Register.

Friends of the professional storyteller have been teasing her on her Facebook page about the groceries that helped keep her alive.

“Fruit cake does come in handy,” wrote one woman.

A blizzard on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018 slams Kansas City with nearly six inches of snow and strong winds.

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