Tennessee Flooding Leaves at Least 21 Dead
At least 21 in Tennessee and 5 in North Carolina are dead after floods overwhelm rural communities.
A damaged home in Waverly, Tenn., a day after the flood that officials said killed at least 21 people.Credit…Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
At least 21 people have been killed in Tennessee and 40 others remained missing on Monday after a catastrophic flash flood swept through a rural area of rivers, creeks and rolling woods about 90 minutes west of Nashville, the authorities said.
The flash flood disappeared as quickly as it arrived, leaving behind a trail of destruction in and around Humphreys County. Homes were washed off their foundations and tossed across the street. Cars and trucks were strewn about, and bridges and roads crumbled. Debris filled chain-link fences.
On Monday morning, 2,000 homes remained without electricity, officials said.
The number of victims and potential victims fluctuated on Monday as new names were added to the list of people missing and others were reported safe by family members, officials said. At one point on Sunday, officials had said at least 22 people were dead.
At a news conference on Sunday, Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee described the deadly flooding as “a devastating picture of loss and heartache in one of our Tennessee communities.”
In neighboring North Carolina, at least five people were killed after flash floods wiped out homes in the western part of the state in the wake of Tropical Depression Fred last week, the authorities said on Sunday.
The dead, ages 68 to 86, were from Cruso, N.C., in Haywood County, where homes were swept off their foundations. Rescuers were searching on Sunday for another person who remained missing.
Josh Whitlock and Stacy Mathieson look through what is left of their home after it burned following flooding in Waverly.Credit…Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean, via Associated Press
At a news conference on Sunday, President Biden said he had encouraged federal officials to offer assistance to Tennessee. “I want to begin by expressing my deepest condolences for the sudden and tragic loss of life due to this flash flood,” he said.
Heavy rain and storms overwhelmed creeks in the mountains west of Nashville starting on Saturday morning. Nine to 17 inches of rain fell across parts of Middle Tennessee within a six-hour period, and another round of severe weather struck the same area on Saturday night.
In Waverly, Tenn., Rickey Larkin said he saw the creek behind his home spill over its banks. “We prayed and we prayed it would go down,” he said. “We came about a foot from drowning. I thought we were gone.”
One of the hardest-hit areas was the town of McEwen, where 17 inches of rainfall was recorded on Saturday. The National Weather Service said the figure most likely set a statewide record for the most rainfall in a 24-hour span. The previous record of 13.6 inches was set in 1982.
“It was a rough Saturday for some of our neighbors,” the Weather Service office in Nashville said on Twitter. “Our deepest sympathies go out to those who were affected by yesterday’s unprecedented flooding, especially those who lost family members or friends.”