About two dozen people were killed, including two babies who were swept from their father’s arms, and dozens of others were missing as of Sunday afternoon after catastrophic flash flooding in Middle Tennessee, officials said.
Humphreys County Public Information Officer Grey Collier said 22 people had lost their lives due to Saturday’s flooding. The county reports that about 50 others remained missing as of Sunday afternoon, according to CBS News.
Authorities fear the number could rise as rescue crews were still searching door to door.
The dead included twin 7-month-old babies who were swept from their father’s arms in Waverly. The family told WTVF that the babies went underwater and disappeared. Their bodies were later found by first responders.
Humphreys County received up to 17 inches of rain in less than 24 hours Saturday, which likely shattered the Tennessee record for one-day rainfall by more than 3 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
The floodwaters had receded by Sunday, but large amounts of debris could be seen, including wrecked cars and demolished buildings.
In downtown Waverly, business owner Kansas Klein was quoted as saying that he saw two girls holding on to a puppy and clinging to a wooden board, but the current was too fast. He later heard that a girl with a puppy and another girl had been rescued downstream but wasn’t sure it was them.
Klein said that the storm devastated low-income housing area, Brookside.
"[B]uildings were knocked down, half of them were destroyed," Klein explained. "People were pulling out bodies of people who had drowned and didn’t make it out.”
“It was something like the quickness of a tornado, I guess. Someone described it as a tidal wave,” Waverly Mayor Buddy Frazier was quoted as saying by WKRN. “It makes you feel good when you’re dealing with a situation like this and you see you’re not in it by yourself. Your neighbors are with you and everyone starts pulling together.”
In his remarks from the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Sunday, President Joe Biden expressed his “deepest condolences for the sudden and tragic loss of life due to this flash flood.”
“I know we've reached out to the community and we stand ready to offer them support," he said. "I've asked the Administrator to speak to Governor [William Byron] Lee of Tennessee right away, and we will offer any assistance they need for this terrible moment."