Updated Aug 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Tennessee flooding leaves at least 22 people dead and dozens missing

A scene of the devastation from the flooding in Hardin County, Tenn.

The impact of the flooding on the Waverly area of Tennessee. Photo: Hardin County Fire Department, Savannah Tennessee/Facebook

Severe flooding in parts of middle Tennessee has left at least 22 people dead and dozens of others unaccounted for, local authorities said on Sunday.

The latest: Waverly Chief of Public Safety Grant Gillespie told reporters search-and-rescue were working into the night to find those missing from Saturday's flooding, driven by heavy rainfall.

  • Gillespie noted that with the extreme weather causing internet and phone lines to go down in some places — including the 911 emergency line — rescuers were conducting "old school" work, conducting door-to-door checks.
  • In Waverly, Humphreys County — the town hit hardest by the flooding — hundreds of homes were left uninhabitable, and the waters snapped power lines and "slabs of roadway peeled from the ground," the Tennessean reports.
  • Officials announced an 8 p.m. curfew in Waverly.

By the numbers: 17.02 inches of rain had fallen in the city of McEwen from midnight to just before 10.30p.m. Saturday ET — meaning it "likely broke the all-time 24 hour rainfall record for the state," the NWS tweeted.

The big picture: The National Weather Service issued its most dire flood alert for the affected area on Saturday as relentless heavy rain caused creeks to overflowed amid a "flash flood emergency."

  • The water from the Saturday's flooding has started to recede in some areas, per the Washington Post.

What they're saying: Speaking from the White House Sunday evening, President Biden expressed his "deepest condolences for the sudden and tragic loss of life" due to the flash flooding. 

  • The White House has reached out to the community and stands ready to offer its support, the president added.
  • Waverly Mayor Buddy Frazier told WKRN: "This is the most devastating disaster that we’ve every experienced in this area."

Of note: A UN IPCC report on climate science published earlier this month found that extreme precipitation events, including heavy downpours, are becoming more frequent and severe.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with to reflect the death toll increase and with additional other details throughout.

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