WAVERLY, Tenn. – Keith Daniel is no stranger to flooding.
He has handled two more floods near his home just blocks from downtown Waverly in the past 11 years, but said Saturday was different.
“It used to go up slowly and we have time, but this time it all came at once,” said Daniel. “Before I knew it, the water broke a window and we were trapped.”
Search and rescue operations were underway in the town of Waverly and across Humphreys County on Tuesday, where around 17 inches of record-breaking rain fell, according to reports from the National Weather Service.
At least 21 people were killed when the storm hit the rural county, which is home to around 20,000 people 70 miles west of Nashville. The authorities said there were twenty dead in the city of Waverly, the county seat.
Governor Bill Lee has asked President Joe Biden to approve, through FEMA, an expedited major disaster statement for the four counties hit by Saturday’s catastrophic flooding – Dickson, Hickman, Houston and Humphreys.
Daniel, his wife and daughter survived the flood disaster on Saturday in their attic. When the water subsided, it had ruined everything in the house.
When sisters Jacquita Buchanan and Suzette Worke were cleaning their mother and stepfather’s house, they said this flood was like nothing.
“Our mother knows when the water reaches a certain point, they have to go,” said Buchanan. “During this all the water came at once.”
More:Floods in Waverly, Tennessee, destroy homes and families; Dozens are missing
Her mother’s house stood on a neighbour’s wrecked car, several feet from its original foundation. The only reason it hadn’t drifted further down the street was because a tree in the front yard pinned it down.
Buchanan said her father managed to get her mother to safety but was one of 21 who died in the floods when he returned to help other neighbors.
Among the dead, according to family members who were surviving, were twin babies ripped from their father’s arms and a foreman at country music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch.
On Monday, the water had sunk in parts of Waverly, a town of 4,300, and the extent of the destruction was only just beginning to show. Homes and cars were destroyed, with several blocks removed from their original locations.
Fires from blown electricity and gas lines burned on Monday evening. Volunteers from local law enforcement agencies and churches went door-to-door to help people clear out rotting closets and broken appliances.
But others were still looking for lost loves and anxiously waiting for news.
“At this point, we are communicating with families and working with authorities on victims and missing persons,” said Chris Davis, sheriff of Humphreys County, in a press release on Monday evening.
Jeff Buchanan, who has lived in Waverly his entire life, helped clean up a family member’s home on Monday.
Buchanan said the city will “never be the same” after the flood.
“That changed Waverly forever,” he said.
How you can help:How to Help Residents During Extreme Flash Floods Devastating Middle Tennessee
Contributors: Stella Yu