At least 22 dead and many missing as record-breaking floods hit Tennessee

23 August 2021, 06:09 | Updated: 23 August 2021, 09:51

The floods caused havoc in Waverly, Tennessee
The floods caused havoc in Waverly, Tennessee. Picture: Hardin County Fire Department
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

At least 22 people have died and many more are missing as record-breaking rain caused devastating floods in Tennessee.

Police in the state's Humphreys County confirmed the deaths, while a Facebook page by officials in the city of Waverly listed about 40 people as missing.

Up to 17 inches of rain fell in the county in less than 24 hours on Saturday, smashing Tennessee's record for one-day rainfall by more than three inches, the National Weather Service said.

Homes were swept away and many of those missing were from areas that were hit hardest by the flash floods, Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said.

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The dead ranged in age from young children to elderly people, he added, and the search for survivors is ongoing.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee toured the city, stopping on Main Street where some homes were washed off their foundations and people were sifting through their water-logged possessions.

Shirley Foster cried as the governor walked up and told him she just learned a friend from her church was dead.

"I thought I was over the shock of all this. I'm just tore up over my friend. My house is nothing, but my friend is gone," Ms Foster said.

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The devastation from flash flooding in Waverly TN area is unbelievable, a few pictures from what our team encountered...

Posted by Hardin County Fire Department, Savannah Tennessee on Saturday, August 21, 2021

Meteorologists said the hardest-hit areas saw double the amount of rain that the region of Middle Tennessee had recorded in the previous worst-case scenario for flooding.

Lines of storms moved over the area for hours, wringing out a record amount of moisture - a scenario scientists have warned may be more common because of climate change.

The downpours rapidly turned the creeks that run behind backyards and through downtown Waverly into raging rapids.

By Sunday, the floodwaters were gone, leaving behind debris from wrecked cars, demolished businesses and homes and a chaotic, tangled mix of the things inside.