At least 22 people are dead and 60 are missing after middle Tennessee was hit with record rainfall Friday into Saturday morning. The flooding in the region caused cars to be tossed like toys and houses ripped off their foundations, officials said.
A preliminary rainfall total of 17.02 inches was measured at McEwen, Tennessee, Saturday, which would break the all-time 24-hour rainfall record for the state of Tennessee, according to the National Weather Service. The old record was 13.06 inches, recorded in Milan on Sept. 13, 1982.
In Humphreys County, 10 were killed and about 40 people remain missing, according to Rob Edwards, chief deputy with the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office said on Saturday. By Sunday that number grew to 22 dead and 60 missing.
Grey Collier, public information officer for the county’s emergency management agency, told ABC News Sunday evening that the number of missing persons was “nowhere near concrete” and changing rapidly.
During a news conference Sunday evening Patrick Sheehan, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said rescuers were still searching the area, but cautioned that things were looking grim. “I would expect, given the number of fatalities we’ve seen so far, that we’re going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point, rather than rescue efforts,” he said.
The Waverly, Tennessee, Department of Public Safety posted a list of those who are potentially missing. The list doesn’t include missing children, Collier said. Humphreys County is located along the Tennessee River, about 90 minutes west of Nashville.
“We have power outages all over the area,” Rob Edwards, chief deputy with the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office, said. “Complicating issues is the loss of all cell phone coverage from the major carriers. They are bringing in portable units to assist with communications. We have lost a lot of roads both rural and major highways. In my 28 years, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”
President Joe Biden expressed his “deepest condolences” for the victims and families of the flash flooding during a news conference Sunday evening. He said the federal government has reached out to Gov. Bill Lee. “We’ll offer any assistance they need for this terrible moment,” Biden said.
Lee was scheduled to give an update Sunday evening. Flash flood watches were in effect across much of central Tennessee on Saturday. The Hardin County Fire Department, which went to assist nearby Humphreys County, called the destruction “unbelievable” and said search teams would return to the region on Sunday morning.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency warned people to avoid traveling in Humphreys, Houston, Dickson and Hickman counties. The Red Cross said it had opened emergency shelters at the YMCA Dickson County in Dickson; the Fairfield Church of Christ in Centerville; and the Waverly Church of Christ and Waverly First Baptist Church in Waverly.