Disastrous flash floods in central Tennessee on Saturday have killed at least 22 people, as search-and-rescue crews look for 51 others who remain missing.
According to the Nashville office of the National Weather Service, the 17.02 inches of rain that fell on Saturday “likely broke the all-time 24-hour rainfall record for the state,” resulting in massive flooding in the Middle Tennessee region, which includes the 38 counties east of the Tennessee River and west of the time-zone boundary. All of the deaths occurred in Humphreys County, where residents described the speed of the flooding as “a tidal wave,” according to Waverly mayor Buddy Frazier. “It just caught everyone totally off guard yesterday.” The Tennessee National Guard and water-rescue teams from across the state have been deployed to help with search efforts, and according to Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy, the death toll is expected to rise. “Things are moving fast and we are finding people left and right,” he told the New York Times.
One Waverly resident, Cindy Dunn, told the Tennessean that flooding inside her house forced her family to shelter in their attic, where they were rescued by a team who got them out using the bucket of a bulldozer. “My husband said one minute he was [watching TV news] and the next minute we had no garage,” she said. According to Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis, the victims range from “the children to the elderly.” Waverly restaurant owner Kansas Klein told the Associated Press, “It was devastating: Buildings were knocked down, half of them were destroyed. People were pulling out bodies of people who had drowned and didn’t make it out.” According to the grandmother of the deceased, a pair of 7-month-old twins were among those killed in the flood.
During a press conference on Tropical Storm Henri’s status in New England,
President Joe Biden pledged federal support in the rescue and recovery efforts, offering “my deepest condolences for the sudden and tragic loss of life.”