NEAR TILLAMOOK, Ore. - An 11-year-old girl who crawled out of her family's smashed SUV and made her way through a storm to get help is being credited with saving her own life - and the lives of seven others.
Wednesday evening, following a two-day storm that brought heavy rains to the Northwest, a culvert and the stretch of county road above it washed out near Tillamook. And when that happened, two vehicles ended up going over the edge.
Stephanie McRae and her three children were in a Ford Expedition that was swept a quarter-mile downstream and lodged against a tree.
"I knew what was happening," said 11-year-old Maddie McRae. "I thought we were going to die because the water was going over our heads. But me and my mom prayed a lot and we knew God could get us through it."
Maddie managed to crawl through the SUV's broken front window and shimmy across a branch of the tree to get to safety. She then climbed an electric fence and called 911 from a nearby farmhouse.
By the time authorities arrived, Fire Capt. Charles Spittles in Tillamook County said, "the river was pounding on the roof and going over the roof."
After rescuers threw an extension ladder over a limb and dangled ropes to her, he said, Stephanie McRae lashed her two younger children and rescuers pulled them up to safety.
McRae herself was getting cold and weak, he said, so rescuers tipped the ladder down to her. She pulled herself over the end and crawled along it to get to her rescuers.
Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson said McRae and the two children were treated at a hospital and released.
Rescuers also waded through the water to fetch four people from another vehicle, a brand new Ford 500, which had actually been the first to plunge into the water.
Jodi Porter, her 9-year-old daughter, her 13-year-old daughter and her father were just returning from church when they rounded the bend and ended up going over the edge.
"We were coming home from church and came around the corner like we have thousands of times in the 13 years we've lived out here and the road was collapsed in front of us," Porter said. "And we went down into the culvert and it collapsed and we were in the creek floating backwards for about a mile."
Porter said she had a cell phone and instead of calling 911, frantically called her friend who had left the church just behind them.
"My first thought was to call my best friend because they were right behind us leaving church and I didn't want her to fall in," said Porter. "So as we're floating backwards, I'm dialing her saying 'don't come, don't come, you're going to fall in too.'"
Rescuers were able to reach the family and get them out, but it took a while.
"We crawled on top of the car but it kept sinking, so we crawled onto a logjam until the firefighters came and got us," Porter said.
Everyone came out of the ordeal with just a few cuts and bruises and Maddie is now considered a hero.
"I would think it's pretty amazing because I look back and I just went and looked at the car. It's beaten up. I don't get how I climbed on the tree and got off," she said.