- Some residents were reportedly trapped in their homes with water up to their necks.
- Hundreds of homes may be uninhabitable,
- The flooding took out roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – At least 21 people were dead and dozens remained missing Sunday after record-shattering downpours triggered flooding across parts of the state.
Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis confirmed the death toll and said 25 to 30 people were missing. Among those killed were twin toddlers who were swept from their father’s arms, according to surviving relatives.
Public Information Officer Grey Collier said hundreds of homes may be uninhabitable. The flooding took out roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines, leaving families uncertain about whether their loved ones survived the unprecedented deluge.
The hardest-hit areas saw double the rain that area of Middle Tennessee had in the previous worst-case scenario for flooding, meteorologists said.
Waverly business owner Kansas Klein told The Associated Press that a housing area known as Brookside apparently suffered the most damage from the floods.
“It was devastating: Buildings were knocked down, half of them were destroyed,” Klein said. “People were pulling out bodies of people who had drowned and didn’t make it out.”
Gov. Bill Lee and U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty arrived in the county via helicopter around 12:45 p.m. Sunday to survey the damage.
“Goodness gracious,” Lee said on a car ride as he saw homes taken off their foundations and moved into neighbors’ yards.
In McEwen, Tennessee, 60 miles west of Nashville, a state-record 17 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours. The neighboring Humphreys County town of Waverly saw about 15 inches, turning the creeks that run behind backyards and through downtown into raging rapids.
Cindy and Jimmy Dunn fled to their attic Saturday after water rose 6 feet high in their Waverly home. They were rescued several hours later when a crew driving a bulldozer raised a bucket to their window.
“My husband said one minute he was (watching TV news), and the next minute we had no garage,” said Cindy Dunn, 48.
National Weather Service meteorologist Krissy Hurley said the area received "about 20%-25% of the yearly rainfall total that this area sees in a year" in a single morning Saturday. Hurley said she heard reports of Humphreys County residents trapped in homes with water up to their necks.
Klein watched from a bridge Saturday morning as homes and cars were swept down a road. Two girls who were holding on to a puppy and clinging to a wooden board swept past, far too fast for Klein and other onlookers to pull to safety.
Hours later, the floodwaters were gone, but the destruction was overwhelming, Klein said.
“It was amazing how quick it came and how quick it left,” Klein said. “I'm thinking how horrible it was that I lost my restaurant. And then I walk around the corner and see someone’s baby dead. My restaurant doesn’t mean a whole lot right now.”
Eight to 15 inches of rain fell across Houston, Humphreys, Dickson and Hickman counties, according to the National Weather Service.
In Haywood County, North Carolina, the death toll rose to four from flooding wrought by Tropical Storm Fred last week after two bodies were recovered Saturday. Heavy equipment teams moved in to clear out debris, authorities said.
“We have homes that are completely destroyed and off their foundations, mobile homes that were moved and mobile home parks that I would call completely destroyed,” Sheriff Greg Christopher said.
Contributing: Brinley Hineman, Cassandra Stephenson, Yue Stella Yu and Chris Gadd, Nashville Tennessean; The Associated Press