Tennessee flooding leaves 15 people dead and about 30 others missing, sheriff says – CNN

Search and rescue efforts are ongoing in the county and the city of Waverly, the county seat, the agency said in a statement Sunday.

“We are asking that residents please stay out of neighborhoods and roadways while the rescue effort is underway,” Waverly Chief of Public Safety Grant Gillespie said in the statement.

An 8 p.m. curfew will remain in place this evening, the statement said.

Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis earlier told CNN affiliate WSMV that between five and seven of the missing are children. Those who remain unaccounted for are largely from an area of the county that was most heavily impacted by the rising water levels.

The deceased range from “the children to the elderly,” Davis said. He previously told the station that two toddlers were among the dead.

“They just went and got one of my best friends and recovered him. He drowned in this,” the sheriff said, growing emotional. “It’s tough, but we’re going to move forward.”

Crews from Tennessee Emergency Management are on the scene and helping set up shelters for impacted residents. Davis said a curfew will remain in place. He asked people not to come to Waverly unless absolutely necessary.

“We would rather just ask you not to come into Waverly if you don’t have to,” Davis told WSMV. “It helps us control that and minimize the dangers that we have.”

According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the impacted counties include Humphreys, Hickman, Houston and Dickson, and drivers were urged to not attempt to cross flood roads.

A reunification center has been opened at McEwen High School, the sheriff’s office said. Shelters have been opened in Waverly, Dickson and Centerville, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said in a statement Saturday night.

Debris from flooding is strewn along Sam Hollow Road following heavy rainfall on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Dickson, Tennessee.Debris from flooding is strewn along Sam Hollow Road following heavy rainfall on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Dickson, Tennessee.
According to the National Weather Service in Nashville, more than 17 inches of rain was measured in McEwen on Saturday, possibly setting a new state record for 24-hour rainfall, though the data still needs to be checked before the new record is official. The previous record was set in September 1982 with 13.6 inches of rain in Milan, Tennessee.
“It looked more like a hurricane or tornado had gone through the area,” Steve Smith, program director and a stormspotter at Huntsville, Alabama’s WZYP, told CNN of the damage he saw in Waverly.

Numerous state agencies have responded, TEMA said, including the Tennessee National Guard, the state Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Department of Health.

The Tennessee National Guard said Saturday night it was deploying nearly 50 soldiers to respond to the severe flooding, and that it sent a Blackhawk helicopter to the scene to assist with water rescues. Tactical vehicles and Humvees are also being used in rescue operations.

“Our first priority is to assist with getting responders access to the area and conduct rescue operations,” Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes said in a tweet. “We’ll continue to increase the number of forces as the situation dictates and we’ll be positioning additional specialty units to respond as needed.”

The deadly flash flooding event — along with the extreme rainfall seen in New York City thanks to Hurricane Henri — are becoming more common due to human-caused global warming, scientists say. A recent UN climate report said the “frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased since the 1950s over most land area.”

CNN’s Andy Rose and Alaa Elassar contributed to this report.