SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) – A homeless woman who had been living a drainage pipe was rescued from inside a storm drain under a San Rafael street Sunday after rushing water nearly swept her and a small dog away.

A worker at the nearby Second Street car wash was going about his business when he heard cries for help below his feet. ” I heard the lady saying help me help me get out of here,” said Pedro Delbez.

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Through cracks in the storm drain cover he could see a  middle aged woman at the bottom of a drain with the water rushing in up to her knees.

Delbez couldn’t lift the 250 pound lid himself so he called 911. Responding firefighters lowered a ladder 14 feet to reach her.

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“Our concern was that she was going to get swept away and we would lose sight of her,” said San Rafael Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Paul Crimmins.

Crimmins said a surprising number of people live in the storm drain system.  It’s a place to sleep out of the cold – until the rains come. “They were down there to get out of the cold and get some shelter,” he said.

The city’s homeless experts don’t know how many people might call these concrete caves home but say it happens. 

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The woman rescued was found with extra clothing, personal items and her dog. Firefighters took the woman to a hospital the dog to a shelter.