Rural areas were flooded on Saturday, destroying telephone lines and cellphone towers. Families are left wondering if their loved ones survived this unprecedented flood. Kristi Brown, Humphreys County Schools' coordinator for safety and health, stated that emergency workers were looking for survivors door to door.
Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis confirmed that 22 people died in his county. The names of the missing were on a board in the county's emergency center and listed on a city department's Facebook page.
"I would expect that, given the number fatalities, we're going see mostly recovery efforts rather than rescue efforts," said Patrick Sheehan, Tennessee Emergency Management Director.
According to survivors and Loretta Lynn's ranch foreman, twin babies were taken from their father's arms. He said that he had lost one of his closest friends, the sheriff of the county with 18,000 residents located 60 miles (96 km) west of Nashville.
The National Weather Service reported that Humphreys County received up to 17 inches (43 cmimeters) of rainfall in 24 hours. This broke the Tennessee record for one day rainfall by more than 3 in (8 centimeters).
Tennessee Governor. Bill Lee visited the area and called it a "devastating image of loss and heartache." Bill stopped at Main Street in Waverly to see some homes that had been swept away from their foundations, and people were looking through their waterlogged possessions. There was debris everywhere from demolished homes, cars and businesses, and an eclectic mix of things inside.
Shirley Foster wept as the governor came up. She told the governor that she had just learned of the death of a friend from her church.
"I thought that I had gotten over the shock from all this. My friend is gone and I am just devastated. Foster said that Foster's house was empty, but that of his friend.
Meteorologists stated that the hardest-hit areas received twice the rainfall as the area of Middle Tennessee in the worst-case scenario for flooding. For hours, lines of storms moved through the area, wringing out record amounts of moisture. This scenario is one scientists believe may become more common due to global warming.
The torrential downpours quickly turned the creeks running through Waverly's downtown into raging rapids. Kansas Klein, a business owner, stood on Saturday on a bridge in the town of 4500 people to see two young girls holding onto a puppy while clinging on to a wooden board as the current swept past. He didn't know what had happened to them.
Klein, who lives near the bridge, told The Associated Press via phone that dozens upon dozens of buildings located in Brookside, a low-income area of housing, appeared to have been affected by the flash floods from Trace Creek.
Klein stated that the destruction of buildings and half of their contents was "devastating". "People were pulling out the bodies of drowned people, but they didn't make it out."
Wayne Spears (the foreman of Lynn's ranch) was also killed.
"He's at his barn, and the next thing you know he is checking the animals. Then he hangs on to the barn until people see him floating down the creek. The sheriff stated that this was how fast it was rising.
Someone took a photo of Spears wearing a cowboy hat, holding onto a brown pillar that was churning water and clinging on to it.
Michael Pate, his friend, said that Wayne is just one of those guys. He does everything for everyone, if there are any jobs to do." Michael Pate met Spears at the ranch fifteen years ago.
Waverly's Cash Saver grocery had employees seated at their desks, on registers and on a flower rack, as water from the creek, which is usually 400 feet (120m) away, rushed in to destroy the low-income housing nearby. David Hensley, co-owner of the store, said that they attempted to penetrate the celling in the attic once but couldn't.
Just as the situation was becoming dire, flood waters stopped rising fast and a rescue boat arrived. Hensley stated that they told Hensley that if someone else is available, they should go find them. We think we are OK.
At the beginning of a news conference on Tropical Storm Henri's impact on New England, President Joe Biden offered condolences to the people of Tennessee and directed federal disaster officials to talk with the governor and offer assistance.
Just to the east of Waverly, the town of McEwen was pummeled Saturday with 17.02 inches (43.2 centimeters) of rain, smashing the state's 24-hour record of 13.6 inches (34.5 centimeters) from 1982, according to the National Weather Service in Nashville, though Saturday's numbers would have to be confirmed.
A flash flood watch was issued for the area before the rain started, with forecasters saying 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of rain was possible. Krissy Hurley, a Nashville weather service meteorologist, stated that the worst storm to hit this region of Middle Tennessee was only 9 inches (23 cmimeters) in rain.
Hurley stated, "Forecasting almost any record is something that we don't often do." "Double what we've seen was almost unfathomable."
Recent scientific research has shown that extreme rainfall events will increase in frequency due to man-made climate changes. Hurley stated that it was impossible to determine the exact cause of Saturday's flood. However, her office has dealt with floods in the past year. These floods were previously only seen once in 100 years in September south Nashville and March near the city.
Hurley stated that Saturday's flooding was caused by an "incredible amount" of water. "Thunderstorms formed and moved over the same area repeatedly over and again."
This problem isn’t just in Tennessee. A federal study found man-made climate change doubles the chances of the types of heavy downpours that in August 2016 dumped 26 inches (66 centimeters) of rain around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These floods caused damage to 150,000 homes and killed 13 people.