Oklahoma City Fire Department Lt. Joe Smith already had spent hours rescuing motorists when the call came that a girl was hanging onto a tree in the middle of a rushing flood.
Smith and fellow Oklahoma City firefighter Kyle Templeton were the first to reach the girl, who had been clinging to the tree for hours after a current swept her away while she was trying to help a stranded woman at Hefner Road near Sooner Road.
"She was a little cold and nervous, but physically she was fine,” Smith said.
As Smith helped pull the girl into a boat and get her into a life jacket, he heard the boat's driver shout a warning.
"I looked back and the current was so strong that half the boat had submerged,” he said.
"The next thing I know I'm grabbing for a tree to hold on to and trying to find my radio to call for help. It felt like it took the second rescue boat forever to reach us.”
The girl, whose name was not released, fell into the current while trying to help another woman she saw in the water, Smith said. Rescuers were looking for this woman. It wasn't clear if she managed to get out of the water on her own or was still in trouble.
Seven people were pulled from the water after rain-swollen Deep Fork River overflowed its banks.
The first of those rescued was Arianna Smith, 16, whose sport utility vehicle was swept off a bridge by floodwaters.
"I kept hearing the helicopters,” she said. "I was soaking wet, and I was cold and scared. I thought I was going to die.”
Also rescued were two state workers trapped in chest-high waters at a pumping station along the river, two stranded motorists and a tractor-trailer rig driver who got stuck while trying to drive through a flooded road.
Jason Steadman and a few of his co-workers were tending to a broken-down truck when they noticed the semi stall a few hundred feet from the water's edge.
"My first instinct was to jump in the water and swim out to him,” Steadman said. "We called 911 and helped them load a boat into waist-deep water so they could reach the man.”
After helping to pull the man to safety, Steadman stayed to help rescuers load and unload boats.
"My grandpa always said to repay a debt before you owe it, so that's what I'm trying to do,” he said. "When you're worried about someone else's life, you don't think about your own.”
CONTRIBUTING: STAFF WRITER MEGAN ROLLAND