Floods in Tennessee: 10 dead, dozens missing in flash floods

McEWEN, Tennessee – Rescue teams continued to search for dozens of people missing in Tennessee on Sunday after flooding caused by extraordinarily heavy rains that washed away homes and killed at least 10 people.

Flooding in rural Humphreys County destroyed roads, cell phone towers and phone lines, leaving families in doubt as to whether their loved ones survived the unprecedented flood and rescue workers carried out door-to-door operations. to-door, said Kristi Brown, health and safety supervisor coordinator with Humphreys County Schools.

Business owner Kansas Klein watched in horror from a bridge on Saturday morning at cars and entire homes swept up a road in Waverly, a town of about 4,500 residents that Klein, 48, lived for more than half of of his life. Two girls who were holding a puppy and clinging to a plank of wood walked past, far too fast for Klein and the other onlookers to step down and grab them.

After being ordered by authorities to return, Klein returned a few hours later, shocked that the floodwaters had receded almost entirely and dismayed at the destruction left behind.

“It was amazing how far it came and how quickly it went,” Klein said.

Klein said his restaurant, a ten-year-old New York-style pizza place, was still standing, but the early morning deluge of between 10 and 12 inches (25 to 30 centimeters) of rain in Humphreys County had caused it to reach flood waters to 7 feet (2.1 meters) inside the restaurant, making it a total waste.

After leaving his restaurant, Klein walked to nearby social housing and heard screams. A man had just recovered the body of a baby from one of the houses. Other organs would follow soon.

“I look at my restaurant, thinking how horrible it was to have lost my restaurant, then I walk around the corner and see someone’s baby dead – my restaurant doesn’t mean much in this moment, “Klein told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Saturday night. The town of Waverly’s public water system is subject to a boil water advisory until further notice.

Low-income homes – dozens of apartment buildings known as Brookside – appeared to have suffered the brunt of the flash flood, Klein said.

“It was devastating: buildings were knocked down, half of them were destroyed,” Klein said. “People were removing the bodies of people who had drowned and did not get out.”

Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told media more than 30 people were missing. It was not immediately clear how many had lived in Brookside, located about 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Nashville.

Four shelters were set up on Saturday night for residents whose homes were flooded, and a high school in McEwen was being used to reunite families. Telephone lines cut during and after the storm complicated the search effort, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

“There were people inside the houses sleeping and waking up with their house moving, as if it was coming down the stream,” said Michael Pate, a resident of McEwen.

Two of the bodies recovered were toddlers who had been taken away by their father, Davis told WSMV-TV.

The Waverly couple, Cindy Dunn, 48, and her husband Jimmy, 49, were rescued from their attic by a crew who used a bulldozer to reach them.

“Hell. This is what we had to go through,” Cindy Dunn told the Tennessean.

She said her husband woke her up on Saturday telling her the floodwaters pushed her car into their backyard. Eventually, the water in their house reached at least 1.8 meters high, forcing them to go to the attic. Dunn said the roof was not an option.

“My husband has cancer. He’s undergoing chemotherapy. And I’m an amputee. So there was no way out but the attic,” Dunn said.

Dunn said their home and neighboring homes “were gone”.

Just east of Waverly, the town of McEwen was hit by about 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain in less than a day, causing water rescues, road closures and communication disruptions. That precipitation total shattered the state’s 24-hour record of 13.6 inches (34.5 centimeters) since 1982, according to the National Weather Service Nashville, although Saturday’s numbers are expected to be confirmed. The service said no additional rain was expected on Sunday.

Flood warnings remained in effect until Monday morning for Duck River near Hurricane Mills in Humphreys County and Piney River near Vernon in Hickman County.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee tweeted on Saturday: “Tennessees, please remain cautious of rising flood waters caused by heavy rainfall in parts of Middle TN. We are actively working with emergency response officials and first responders as they support the Tennessees in the flooded areas.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency activated its emergency operations center and said agencies such as the Tennessee National Guard, state highway patrol and mutual fire assistance were responding to floods. In a bulletin, TEMA called the situation “dangerous and evolving” and urged people to avoid travel to the affected counties.

Klein isn’t sure what the future holds for his family or his city.

He also doesn’t know what happened to the two girls and the puppy he witnessed that got caught on the board. He heard that a girl and a puppy had been rescued downstream, and the other girl had also been rescued, but he wasn’t sure it was them.

“This is the third centennial flood that we have had in about 10 years,” referring to the floods of 2010 and 2019. “But it’s 100 times worse than either of them.… The last report I saw was that there were 31 missing. It’s a small town so chances are I know most of these people. “

___

Rico reported from Atlanta.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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