Succession of thunderstorms deposited record-breaking 17in of rain in some parts of state, killing at least 22 people
Tennesseans were surveying the mangled wreckage of towns and communities across the middle of the state on Monday, after a record-breaking deluge caused flash flooding that swept away houses, shattered lives and left at least 22 people dead and many more missing.
Historic flooding on Saturday washed out roads, tore homes off their foundations, took out cellphone towers and telephone lines, and wrecked cars. In the wake of debris, families and friends grew frantic over the whereabouts of missing loved ones.
In Waverly, a city of 4,500 people in Humphreys County, officials released a missing person list of 37 names as of Monday morning, asking the public for help as crews continued “searching inch by inch, in and out of debris.”
At least two children were missing in Waverly after up to 17 inches of rain was dumped in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours Saturday.
Kellen Cole Burrow, 2, was swept out of his mother’s arms as raging floodwaters tore through their apartment.
“I couldn’t get back to him, but [his mother] managed to save our other four children,” Kellen’s father Kalaub McCord told FOX17 Nashville. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have any children right now.”
One name on the missing person list was that of 15-year-old Lilly Bryant, who friends say just started her freshman year of high school.
“If we don’t find her tonight, we’ll be right back here in the morning as soon as daylight breaks to continue,” family friend Chelsea Simons told the station. “We’re not gonna stop until we find their baby.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee toured the area, calling it a “devastating picture of loss and heartache.”
Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis confirmed 22 fatalities in his county.
“There are no words at the ranch today…only tears,” Loretta Lynn wrote in a post on Facebook. “Our ranch family is our family. We lost my amazing ranch foreman, Wayne in this devastating flood.”
As searches stretched into Monday, officials believed that the number of fatalities could rise.
“I would expect, given the number of fatalities, that we’re going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point rather than rescue efforts,” Tennessee Emergency Management Director Patrick Sheehan said.