22 dead, dozens missing after catastrophic flooding in Middle Tennessee

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WAVERLY, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Saturday, heavy rains and storms severely impacted Dickson, Hickman, Houston, and Humphreys counties in Middle Tennessee.

The death toll in Humphreys County has now reached 22 people, according to Humphrey’s County Sheriff Chris Davis.

Sheriff Davis confirmed late Monday afternoon that after flying in a helicopter with Tennessee Highway Patrol they discovered at least 100 more homes that have been forced off their foundations. He described it as “an island surrounding some people trapped that we didn’t know about.”

During a news briefing earlier in the day, the sheriff said the list of missing people has been fluctuating up and down based on when officers are able to conduct welfare checks.

As of 5:50 p.m. on Monday, there are 12 people reported missing. However, if someone calls them stating a loved one is missing or unaccounted for, then they will add that name to the list until they can conduct a welfare check.

“The devastation from this incident starts about a half a mile outside of McEwen up around Durham Lane and continues all the way to what we call Trace Creek and Denver Hill,” Sheriff Davis talked about an eight-mile area. “We’re not talking about people just getting their houses flooded. I’m talking about houses that are being moved from the foundation. I’m taking about houses that people can’t even get into because floors are gone or their cars are gone. It’s just gone.”

He emphasized for the county population of 19,000 they have been hit extremely hard. Sheriff Davis encouraged people to call the dispatch if they need to do a welfare check. That number is (931) 296-7792.

“Right now, our people need help,” Sheriff Davis said adding that several surrounding agencies and state agencies like THP and TWRA have stepped in to assist in the aftermath.

The Humphreys County Homeless Coalition has an account set up at First Federal Bank in Waverly. You can drop off donations for flood victims and ask for them to be deposited into that account. Waverly Police Chief, Grant Gillespie, said that’s the primary place they are asking people and organizations to donate too.

Chief Gillespie stated that scammers were already hitting town offering up home repairs. He encouraged homeowners to do their research before making a payment for repairs.

Tennessee Highway Patrol announced it will be helping individuals who have lost their identifications in the flooding. They will be set up at McEwen High School.

The Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Nashville, Krissy Hurley, confirmed with News 2 that Saturday is now the deadliest flood event in Middle Tennessee history.

One of the hardest-hit areas was the city of Waverly in Humphreys County. Mayor Buddy Frazier said most people he’s spoken with felt totally caught off guard by the rainfall. “It was something like the quickness of a tornado I guess. Someone described it as a tidal wave.”

A boil water alert is currently in place for Waverly as its water treatment facility remains offline. Humphreys County schools will be closed for the rest of this week with reports of approximately 40 to 50 school buses damaged from floodwater.

Waverly officials have also released a partial list of the missing people from the area.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee toured the impacted area Sunday afternoon. Lee was joined by Tennessee’s U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency Director Patrick Sheehan, and Commissioner Clay Bright of the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation.

At a press briefing Sunday afternoon, Lee said details are still unfolding in terms of the impact of the flooding. “There’s much yet to know about what the end results will be. But what we do know is that it’s incredibly difficult, and our hearts and our prayers need to be for those communities, for those folks in that community, many of them who have suffered not only the loss of their homes and their property, but the loss of family members and friends.”

Rainfall totals range from 9 to 17 inches within a 6-hour period Saturday morning and another round of severe weather impacted the same area Saturday night.

Multiple bridges and roadways in the impacted area remain closed. Telecommunication services and electrical power are gradually being restored. Local and state personnel continue to work with flood survivors on reunification.

A Level 3 State of Emergency is currently active in Tennessee.

On Sunday afternoon, President Biden tweeted his support for Tennessee following the deadly flooding, “I send my deepest condolences for the sudden and tragic loss of life due to flash flooding in Tennessee. We’ve reached out to the community and will offer any assistance they need in this terrible moment,” wrote Biden.

Lee spoke about the President expressing his interest in helping. “We will be putting together a request for an emergency federal assistance declaration of emergency. So those talks are happening right now and that that that request for assistance will happen.”

Donations can be made to the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund set up by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

The governor added those initial assessments will be done within the next few days.

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