A catastrophic flash flood in Tennessee has left at least 22 people dead — including infant twins swept from their father’s arms — and dozens more missing, officials and kin said Sunday.
“Things are moving fast, and we are finding people left and right,” said Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Rob Edwards to the New York Times.
Among the fatalities were 7-month-old twins, identified as Ryan and Riliegh by grandma Angie Willeby to a Fox-TV affiliate in Nashville. The grandmother said the babies were swept from their father’s arms in Waverly during the flash flood Saturday.
Sheriff Chris Davis s fought back tears during a press briefing Sunday while revealing that one of his best friends was among the Middle Tennessee fatalities, too.
“They just went and got one of my best friends and recovered him. He drowned in this,” the emotional sheriff told WSMV.
“It’s tough, but we’re going to move forward,” he said.
“Today, we really are trying to get a good evaluation and overall picture and the extent of things.”
Between five and seven of the people still missing are children, and the confirmed dead range in age from “children to the elderly,” Davis told the outlet.
On Saturday, small rural towns in the county were pummeled with as much as 17 inches of rain in less than 24 hours, possibly breaking the state’s previous single-day rainfall record of 13.6 inches recorded in 1982, according to the National Weather Service Nashville. The numbers still need to be checked before the record is made official.
“We are working very diligently to identify, photograph, reunite and get some questions answered for families and that kind of thing right now, and that’s really tough, considering our logistics with our phones, with our communications,” the sheriff explained.
Workers from Tennessee Emergency Management have set up shelters for residents in the towns of Waverly, Dickson and Centerville and a reunification center is open at McEwen High School, officials said.
Close to 50 soldiers from the state’s National Guard were deployed to help with rescue operations, and a Blackhawk helicopter, along with tactical vehicles and Humvees, were sent to assist with water rescues,
“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.”
Davis said a curfew in the county will remain in effect Sunday and asked people to avoid coming into Waverly, one of the hardest-hit towns, unless it was necessary.
“We’re really getting overwhelmed with love and affection. … We just need to slow down, evaluate,” he said.
“We would rather just ask you not to come into Waverly if you don’t have to. … It helps us control that and minimize the dangers that we have.”
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