- Some residents were reportedly trapped in their homes with water up to their necks.
- Hundreds of houses can be uninhabitable
- The flood destroyed roads, cell towers and telephone lines.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – At least 21 people were dead and dozens went missing Sunday after record-breaking rainfall caused flooding in parts of the state.
Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis confirmed the death toll and said 25 to 30 people were missing. Relatives who were killed, according to surviving relatives, included twins, who were torn from their father’s arms.
Public Information Officer Gray Collier said hundreds of houses could be uninhabitable. The floods destroyed roads, cell towers, and phone lines, leaving families unsure whether their loved ones would survive the unprecedented flood.
The hardest hit areas saw twice as much rain as the Middle Tennessee region in the previous worst-case scenario for flooding, meteorologists said.
Waverly business owner Kansas Klein told The Associated Press that a residential area called Brookside appears to have suffered the most damage from the flooding.
“It was devastating: Buildings were demolished, half of them destroyed,” said Klein. “People pulled out bodies from people who drowned and couldn’t make it.”
Governor Bill Lee and US Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty arrived in the county by helicopter at around 12:45 pm on Sunday to assess the damage.
“Geez,” Lee said while driving a car when he saw houses being torn from their foundations and dragged into the neighbors’ gardens.
McEwen, Tennessee, 60 miles west of Nashville, set a state record of 17 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. The neighboring town of Waverly in Humphreys County looked about 15 inches, turning the streams that flow behind backyards and through downtown into rapid rapids.
Cindy and Jimmy Dunn fled to their attic on Saturday after the water rose 6 feet in their Waverly home. They were rescued several hours later when a crew driving a bulldozer lifted a bucket up to their window.
“My husband said one minute he was watching the TV news and the next minute we wouldn’t have a garage,” said Cindy Dunn, 48.
Krissy Hurley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the area received “about 20-25% of the annual rainfall that the area sees in a year” on a single Saturday morning. Hurley said she heard reports of Humphreys County residents trapped in houses with water up to their necks.
Several dead, dozens missing amid “catastrophic” floods in Tennessee, North Carolina
On Saturday morning, Klein watched from a bridge as houses and cars were swept down a street. Two girls, holding onto a puppy and clinging to a wooden board, swept past, much too fast for little ones and other onlookers to get to safety.
Hours later, the flood was gone, but the destruction was overwhelming, said Klein.
“It was amazing how quickly it came and how quickly it went,” said Klein. “I think how terrible it was that I lost my restaurant. And then I go around the corner and see someone’s baby dead. My restaurant doesn’t mean much right now. “
‘Never seen anything so devastating’: At least 2 dead, 17 missing in North Carolina County by Fred. was flooded
Houston, Humphreys, Dickson, and Hickman counties received 20 to 15 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
In Haywood County, North Carolina, the death toll from flooding from tropical Storm Fred rose to four last week after two bodies were recovered on Saturday. Heavy equipment teams moved in to clear debris, authorities said.
“We have homes that have been completely destroyed and abandoned their foundations, RVs that have been moved, and RV parks that I would consider completely destroyed,” said Sheriff Greg Christopher.
Featuring: Brinley Hineman, Cassandra Stephenson, Yue Stella Yu and Chris Gadd, Nashville, Tennessee; The Associated Press