(CBS SF) — A woman was found inside her car buried in snow in South Lake Tahoe after a snow plow inadvertently hit her car, according to city officials.

The 48-year-old woman was found alive and well Feb. 17 after a snow plow operator hit her car which had been completely buried, according to a notice on the City of South Lake Tahoe website. The woman, who police believe is homeless and living in her car, told police she had been in the car for 4-5 hours.

A multi-day storm left South Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe basin buried in several feet of snow on the morning of the 17th.

“Judge for yourself with the amount of snow on top of that car,” South Lake Tahoe spokesman Chris Fiore told KOLO-TV. “It could have been days that she was there.”

The plow operator and police who responded to help dig the car out had no idea there was a person inside until they saw a hand pressed against the window, Fiore told KOLO

A view of the car discovered by a snow plow operater in South Lake Tahoe, Feb. 17, 2019. (City of South Lake Tahoe)

City officials agreed the situation could’ve ended much worse if the woman had not been found by chance.

“With that much snow piled on top of the car … if the snowplow hadn’t hit the back of it we could be having a much different conversation,” Fiore told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “She could have suffocated.”

“We say this all the time, but it is so important to get cars out of snow removal areas and for everyone to be careful using vehicles during major snow events,” said Fiore.

“One of the biggest issues we’ve had this winter is illegally parked cars,” said Ray Jarvis, Public Works Director in a statement on the city’s website. “They don’t just delay the snow removal process they’re dangerous for everyone involved.”

South Lake Tahoe Police Department Lt. Shannon Laney told the Gazette-Journal that in his nearly 20-year career with the department he has never seen anything like this incident.

“It’s a first for me, but we also haven’t had storms that dump this much (snow) this fast either … it’s a unique winter for us,” Laney said.