WAVERLY, Tenn. (WZTV) — Search efforts for victims of the weekend's catastrophic flash flooding continue Monday. From city limit to city limit, rescue teams are up against about a 10-mile stretch of "mass devastation" Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis tells FOX 17 News.
The unimaginable damage starts around a half mile outside of McEwen near Durham Lane and continues all the way to the Trace Creek area down on the west end of Waverly. Crews are still grappling with what's left behind after more than 17 inches of rain drenched the area in just 24 hours over the weekend, shattering Middle Tennessee's record for 24-hour rainfall.
“We’re not talking about people getting just their houses flooded. I’m talking about houses that’s been removed from the foundation. I’m talking about houses that people can’t even get into because the floors are gone. We’re talking about people that’s coming out, we’re going back to their homes and their cars are gone. It’s just gone. It’s for our little county, around 19,000 population in our city, our county seat’s been hit hard, our county’s been hit hard," Sheriff Davis explained.
Rescue squads have been working against the clock to find people still missing from the floods and search for potential victims. Authorities say in these next 24 hours the search is critical.
Sunday, 12 search and rescue teams from across the state rotated out to comb through neighborhoods. Monday, around six teams are clearing debris and looking for people along the creek channel.
While efforts are ongoing from the east side of town to the west, Waverly authorities confirm 18 people died in the floods. Waverly Police Chief Grant Gillespie says the city has felt the tremendous loss of life.
"It’s been a huge impact to this small community. The town will wear these scars for many decades," Chief Gillespie commented.
The scars on the tight-knit town and the emotional toll on its law enforcement are evident.
“I close my eyes and I can’t get over the devastation," Sheriff Davis shared. “Knowing that you grew up in that, knowing that this is your roots, it all comes together. It’s pretty breathtaking and sets you back pretty good.”
Heartbroken by the deaths and destruction in Humphreys County, Sheriff Davis remains proud of his community and how they are coming together despite it all.
“One of the things I’ve always said our people of our county are our biggest asset. One of our businesses came out today and made the statement that of our deceased and it’s a bank in town and they said that they were going to step up and make a $2,500 contribution for anybody that was deceased, lost life, any families who lost life from this incident. They’re part of their community, and they’re going to take care of their community," Sheriff Davis said. "That’s an example of what our people are that’s example of things that, we’re going to hear things and see things we wish we could forget. We saw that often in law enforcement, but to hear the good things. We try to concentrate on those good things. That’s the kind of things that you don’t forget.”
Find ways to help with relief efforts here.
*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that at least 21 people were killed in the catastrophic flooding. Waverly Police updated the death toll Tuesday, August 24, to reflect that 18 people died in the floods. The police department said the number of reported deaths went down due to mistakes in counting, including a few people who had died of natural causes.