After unrelenting water pounded the small, rural towns of Waverly and McEwen along Highway 70 in Middle Tennessee leaving them isolated, some residents are still trapped in their homes Sunday morning as the National Guard and Red Cross descended into the area.
At midday Sunday, the death toll stood at 15 with more than 40 others still missing. Water rescue crews conducted door-to-door searches.
Destruction is everywhere in Humphreys County. The torrential water pushed homes off their foundations leaving them askew in yards. Dozens of vehicles are upended or submerged. Storefronts, bridges and roads are washed away.
This valley, along the Trace Creek, which cuts through the center of Waverly, was once a stagecoach route just more than 60 miles from Nashville on the way to Memphis. The water is inescapable in this pocket of Humphreys County with the Duck River to the south and the Tennessee River to the west.
After the Trace Creek crested Saturday, Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told The Tennessean the flooding event is the worst he has seen in his 28 years with the department.
The dense fog Sunday added a layer of difficulty to traveling through the region. No more rain is expected today.
This area had not seen a tragedy of this magnitude since 1978 when a propane tanker car on a passing L&N train exploded leaving 16 dead.
A power outage Saturday in Humphreys County made cell phone reception difficult and contributed to the confusion as rescuers tried to locate the missing. Portable units will be brought in to help establish communication lines.
As much as 15 inches of rain fell in the Trace Creek Valley on Saturday, a new record for the area. In 2015, the Trace Creek crested, knocking out some roads, but the damage then was nothing like this.
On Saturday, a large section of Interstate 40 was closed because of the flooding and the severe weather spurred a tornado warning. A state of emergency was in effect for Dickson, Hickman, Houston and Humphreys counties through Saturday night.
The Red Cross spent Sunday morning trying to set up emergency shelters.
“Our volunteers and staff will begin the response of surveying the area Sunday morning and will begin to assess the needs of each community we are serving following these storms,” said Joel Sullivan, regional executive director for Red Cross of Tennessee. “We are working with our local partners and government officials to ensure that recovery services are provided to begin helping the residents get back on their feet as quickly as we can.”
A reunification center for flood survivors has been set up at McEwen High School. The Tennessee Emergency Management Authority will operate the center until 5 p.m. Sunday.
Reach Keith Sharon at 615-406-1594 or [email protected] or on Twitter @KeithSharonTN.