At least 22 people were killed and 50 others remain missing on Sunday after catastrophic flash floods swept through central Tennessee, authorities said.
Rob Edwards, the deputy chief of the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed the death toll and missing on Sunday and said authorities were carrying out house-to-house checks in the hardest hit areas of Humphreys, a rural county of about 18,500 inhabitants. approximately 72 miles west of Nashville.
“Things are moving fast and we are finding people left and right,” MP Edwards said in an email, adding that he expected the death toll to rise.
Among those killed were several children, including 7-month-old twins, he said.
In a Sunday morning interview with WKRN TV channelMayor Buddy Frazier of Waverly, Tenn., the county seat of Humphreys, said damage assessments were continuing and the number of homes lost was “staggering.”
He said residents had little time to protect themselves from flood waters.
“Some of them described it as a tidal wave,” Frazier said. “It just caught everyone off guard yesterday.”
McEwen, Tenn., Who is also in Humphreys County, recorded 17 inches of rain on Saturday, which the National Weather Service said on Twitter would set a record for the most precipitation in a 24-hour period in Tennessee if preliminary estimates were confirmed. The previous record, set in Milan, Tennessee, in 1982, was 13.6 inches.
Deputy Edwards said on Saturday the search for victims was hampered by the widespread blackout of power and cell phone service.
Portable communication units have been brought in to help restore service, he said.
“We have lost a lot of roads, both rural roads and main roads,” he said. “In my 28 years, this is the worst I have ever seen.”
President Biden, in remarks on Sunday, said: “I want to begin by expressing my deepest condolences for the sudden and tragic loss of life due to this flash flood. I have asked the administrator to speak to Governor Lee of Tennessee, right away, and I will offer them all the help they need for this terrible time.
The loss of life came as other parts of the south were still reeling from a week of severe storms that brought heavy rains and tornadoes. In North Carolina, four people were killed and four others were still missing after flash floods destroyed homes in the wake of Tropical Depression Fred last week, authorities said.
In Tennessee, the devastation came after about eight to ten inches of rain inundated Dickson, Hickman, Houston and Humphreys counties, the National Weather Service said Saturday morning.
On Saturday evening, officials reported that some areas had received more than a foot of rain.
Local news channels showed brownish floodwaters submerging homes almost up to their rooftops, sweeping highways and overturning trucks and cars.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the state emergency operations center had been activated in Nashville to support water rescues and other urgent requests for help from local authorities.
“Our first priority is to help responders gain access to the area and conduct rescue operations,” Major General Jeff Holmes, Adjutant General of the Tennessee National Guard, wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to increase the number of forces depending on the situation and we will position additional specialized units to meet the need. “
According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, at least 4,200 people across the state have lost power. He said the flooding in affected counties was “dangerous and scalable,” and urged residents to stay off the roads, charge electronics and monitor the news.
“Do not try to cross flooded roads or alleys,” the agency said. “Turn around, don’t drown.”
The Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative said it could take several days to restore electricity and broadband service to the area.
The utility said its office in Humphreys County was flooded and could be “a total loss”, and trucks and equipment were damaged. Most of the workers were unable to make it to the office due to flooded roads, the cooperative said.
“The safety and well-being of our communities, our employees and the rescue efforts are top priorities right now,” said Keith Carnahan, president and CEO of the co-op, in a statement. declaration. “These are devastating working conditions, but our employees and their serving hearts intensify for the long days ahead as our hometowns begin to heal.”
Waverly Elementary School in Waverly, Tenn., The county seat of Humphreys, was “completely inundated”, with water “4 feet deep throughout the school”, according to his Facebook page.
Two women had been stranded in the school gymnasium with some members of their family, a message read. A later post said they were “no longer in school and on dry ground.”
“Please continue to pray for our community! ” he read.
Eduardo Medina and Neil Vigdor contributed reports.