When a woman's cry for help echoed along Second Street in San Rafael, workers at a nearby car wash rushed to help.

A light rain Sunday morning sent a gush of runoff down a storm drain, and a homeless woman in the 6-foot-diameter pipe below couldn't get out. "Help!" she screamed. "Get me out of here!"

But the drainage cover was too heavy to lift, and San Rafael firefighters were called in to rescue her.

Four firefighters lifted the cover, deployed a ladder and brought the distraught woman to safety shortly after 8 a.m.

The shivering woman was taken to Marin General Hospital for a checkup. A small dog that apparently accompanied the woman was taken by the Marin Humane Society.

San Rafael Battalion Chief Paul Crimmins said that some homeless people have found that parts of the city's drainage pipe system provide a place to sleep -- in dry weather.

"They're living down there," Crimmins said. "But with all the runoff, she got caught down there."

Contact Nels Johnson via email at njohnson@marinij.com. Follow him at twitter.com/nelsjohnsonnews