Janice Forse fell asleep late Tuesday night next to her two dogs on a couch at her North Beaumont home. It was raining as she closed her eyes.
When she woke up Wednesday and slid her feet onto the ground, a sting of frigid water rushed up her ankles.
Tropical Storm Harvey had dropped a state record 26 inches of rain over 24 hours in Beaumont, a city of roughly 118,000 people about 70 miles east of Houston.
“Things were floating around me,” said Forse, 62. “I never thought it would get that bad.”
Later that morning, firefighters from Beaumont banged on her door.
They told her she needed to leave. Water was now waist deep.
Forse had been fostering a group of kittens and their mother at her home. She put the kittens in a plastic bucket, grabbed her purse and her dogs.
The firefighters pulled her into a boat. She looked back at her home. She had just moved into it last year.
The boat was leaving when she heard moans from inside. The kittens’ mother was still there. She’d forgotten about her.
She felt the firefighters rushing her. It was too late to go back.
She sobbed as the boat sped off.
Hours later, Forse’s tears continued, trickling down her face toward her cot at the Beaumont Civic Center. It had been turned into a shelter days earlier.
Forse curled into a ball.
More than 900 other displaced people surrounded her. But she felt so alone. Nobody was with her. That home was all she had.
“I just keep thinking about that momma cat,” she said. Her hands cupped her face. “I can’t believe it.”
Update: On Saturday, Sept. 2, rescue workers found the momma cat, named Camo, deceased at Janice Forse’s home, according to Phillis Forse, Janice Forse’s sister, and Angela Priddy, who had helped lead efforts to rescue Camo. Phillis Forse and Priddy said a video on Facebook that has circulated showing Janice Forse greeting a cat shows a cat that is not Camo. Janice Forse could not be reached for comment on this update.