At least 21 people have died and 40 more are missing after heavy rains and torrential flooding engulfed parts of Tennessee, damaging homes, knocking down trees and overturning cars, officials said.
Twenty of the deaths took place in Waverly, a small town about 75 miles west of Nashville, said Grant Gillespie, chief of the city’s public safety department.
“We have suffered a devastating loss,” he told a press conference.
The Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency said 40 more people were missing.
Several of the missing are children, the Waverly Department of Public Safety said.
“We have resources that are looking inch by inch, in and out of debris,” the department said.
Among the dead were 7-month-old twin babies who were swept away by the flooding, according to the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency.
The siblings’ bodies had been found, Sheriff Chris Davis told NBC affiliate WSMV in Nashville.
Also among the dead was a sheriff’s best friend, Davis told the station on Sunday. “He drowned in there,” Davis said, adding that he would get “emotional” if he slowed down and spoke about the disaster. “If I continue to work and focus, we are working on it.”
The foreman of an event venue and ranch owned by country music icon Loretta Lynn also died in the flooding, the ranch said Sunday. Images released by local news outlets showed the location, about 11 miles south of Waverly, inundated by flooding, and in a Facebook post, the ranch said foreman Wayne Spears was washed away by the floods. flood waters.
“Wayne has been a friend of the Lynns and a staple of the ranch for decades and we are all devastated by his passing,” said The Ranch.
Davis said authorities spent Sunday answering 911 calls, conducting welfare checks and trying to get a feel for the extent of damage to the area.
Humphreys County schools will be closed for the remainder of the week.
Residents using the Waverly Water Supply were still ordered to boil water for consumption on Monday, and 2,000 homes were left without power.
Several bridges and roads were still closed, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), which assessed the damage with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Telephone services were gradually being restored.
Houses have been swept from foundations and cars have been strewn across the area, officials said. The 911 emergency service was temporarily disconnected; it was functional Sunday afternoon, Gillespie said.
TEMA said on Monday that 93 people had spent the night in shelters.
The flooding occurred after what was most likely record rainfall, the The National Weather Service office in Nashville said. More than 17 inches of rain in 24 hours was recorded in Humphreys County on Saturday, likely surpassing the previous record of 13.6 inches in 1982, the agency said.
In neighboring North Carolina, flooding from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred last week was also fatal. In hard-hit Haywood County, officials said Sunday that five people had died and one person was still missing.