Search teams walked through broken homes and tangled debris on Monday, searching for a dozen people still missing after record-breaking rains sent floodwaters sweeping through the Tennessee countryside, killing at least 22 people .
Floods on Saturday destroyed roads, cell phone towers and phone lines, leaving people in doubt as to whether family and friends survived the unprecedented flood, with rainfall more than tripling the forecast and broke the state record for one-day precipitation. Rescuers were going door to door, said Kristi Brown, responsible for coordinating school health and safety with schools in Humphreys County.
Many missing live in neighborhoods where the water has risen fastest, said Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis, who has confirmed the 22 deaths in his county and said 12 to 15 people are still missing. . The names of the missing were on a sign in the county emergency center and on a Town of Waverly Facebook page, which is updated as people call and declare themselves safe.
“I would expect that, given the number of deaths, we would see primarily recovery efforts at this point rather than rescue efforts,” said Patrick Sheehan, director of emergency management for Tennessee.
The Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page filled with people looking for missing friends and family. The GoFundMe Pages have asked for help with the funeral costs of the dead, including 7-month-old twins torn from their father’s arms as they tried to escape.
The twins’ deaths have been confirmed by surviving family members. Country music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch foreman has also died. The county sheriff of about 18,000 people some 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Nashville said he had lost one of his best friends.
Up to 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain fell in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours on Saturday, breaking Tennessee’s record for day-long precipitation of more than 3 inches (8 centimeters), said the National Weather Service.
School has been canceled for the week, according to the sheriff’s office. Waverly Elementary and Waverly Junior High sustained significant damage, according to Brown, the school’s health and safety supervisor.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited the area, calling it a “devastating picture of loss and heartache.” President Joe Biden offered his condolences to the people of Tennessee and called on federal disaster officials to speak with the governor and offer his assistance.
Just east of Waverly, the town of McEwen was hit by 17.02 inches (43.2 centimeters) of rain on Saturday, breaking the state record of 13.6 inches (34.5 centimeters) in 24 hours since 1982, according to the Nashville National Weather Service, although Saturday’s numbers are expected to be confirmed.
A flash flood watch was issued for the area before the onset of the rain, with forecasters saying 10 to 15 centimeters was possible. Prior to Saturday’s flood, the worst storm on record in that central Tennessee area had been 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain, said Krissy Hurley, a meteorologist with the Nashville Weather Service.
“Almost predicting a record is something we don’t do very often,” said Hurley. “Double the amount we have ever seen was almost unfathomable.”