But she did, despite being trapped inside her camper and then being swept away by a torrent of debris-filled water that deposited her into Seneca Lake, where she clung to various items floating in the water for two-plus hours before being rescued.
"I didn't think there was any way out of it," Halligan told The Associated Press on Thursday, two days after floods caused by torrential rains tore through several towns between Seneca and Cayuga lakes, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) west of Albany.
Storms dumped more than 6 inches of rain in just a few hours in a region of upstate New York named for its long, narrow lakes, causing floods that washed out roads and bridges, inundated homes, and swept away trees, vehicles and mobile homes. There were no fatalities and few injuries reported.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in more than a dozen counties and has dispatched hundreds of state personnel and fleets of vehicles and other equipment to the hardest hit areas. In addition to the disaster recovery teams, about 200 members of the New York National Guard are assisting cleanup efforts.
Halligan, 60, was staying in the seasonal 1957 travel trailer she purchased last month at the Sunset on Seneca campground on Seneca Lake's eastern shore. She said her mixed-breed dog Ruby, who is afraid of thunder and lightning, woke her when violent storms rolled into the area around 5 a.m. Tuesday.
After grabbing her cellphone to check on the time, Halligan looked out the window.
"I just saw water," Halligan told the AP in a phone interview, describing how a normally placid brook nearby was now a roiling river. "I opened the door and water came rushing in. It just kept coming so fast."
With the water quickly rising inside her 8-by-38-foot camper, Halligan dialed 911 and gave a Seneca County dispatcher her location, adding that she was likely going to die. She then called her daughter and boyfriend, telling both the same thing:
"I'm at the camp; it's flooding. I'm probably going to drown. I love you."
After the call to her boyfriend, Halligan grabbed her handbag - "A woman has to have her handbag, I guess," she said - and barely made it out the door of the now-water-filled camper as it started to tip over. Her 4-year-old dog had already been swept away.
Halligan, wearing only a nightgown, was swept about 100 yards downhill, where the force of the flooding shot her far out into the lake.
"I'm like, I lived?" said Halligan, a registered nurse for nearly four decades, about two of them spent working in emergency rooms. "I truly expected to die."
Clinging to various objects floating in the water, including her own sofa at one point, she was rescued after 2½ hours by a man in a rowboat who was searching for the woman reported missing from the campground. Too weak to climb aboard, she held on to the rear of the boat until a fire crew in another boat showed up and got her to shore.
Halligan, who lives year-round in a neighboring town, said her camper was smashed into "a million pieces." She lost everything, including her handbag, which she had tied to the roots of a big tree stump she held onto after being deposited in the lake.
But Ruby survived. Traumatized by her own ordeal, the dog was seen Wednesday running away from people at the campground who were trying to catch her.
Halligan, sore from cuts and scratches, returned to the campground Thursday in an effort to catch her beloved "shaggy mutt." As she pulled in, some men caught Ruby near where Halligan's camper stood.
"I came over, and she went crazy," Halligan said. "She needs a good grooming."
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