At least ten people have been murdered and scores more are missing amid flash floods in Tennessee.
Catastrophic flooding in Middle Tennessee killed at least 10 people and left others missing Saturday, police said, as record-breaking rainfall washed away houses and rural roads.
Kansas Klein, a business owner, stood on a bridge Saturday morning and watched as automobiles and entire houses were swept down a road in Waverly, a community of roughly 4,500 people where Klein, 48, has lived for more than half his life. Two girls clutching a puppy and clinging to a wooden board sped past, far too quickly for Klein and the other onlookers to descend and seize them.
Klein returned a couple hours later, startled that the floodwaters had almost completely retreated and appalled at the devastation left behind.
“It was incredible how quickly it arrived and how quickly it departed,” Klein remarked.
Klein said his restaurant, a decade-old New York-style pizzeria, was still intact but had been completely destroyed by flooding generated by the morning deluge of between 10 and 12 inches of rain in Humphreys County.
Klein walked to the adjoining public housing units after leaving his business and overheard yelling. A man had recently retrieved the body of an infant from one of the residences. Other bodies would quickly follow suit.
“I'm looking at my restaurant, thinking about how awful it was to lose it, and then I walk around the corner and see someone's baby dead — my restaurant doesn't mean much right now,” Klein told the Associated Press in a phone interview Saturday night, still reeling from shock as he watched a local news channel air footage he had recorded hours earlier on his phone.
Klein said the low-income housing complexes — dozens of block buildings together known as Brookside — looked to have absorbed the brunt of the flash flood.
“It was catastrophic: buildings were leveled and half of them destroyed,” Klein added. “Persons were removing the bodies of people who had drowned and were unable to be rescued.”
According to Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis, more than 30 persons have been reported missing. It was unclear how many people resided in Brookside, some 60 miles west of Nashville.
Davis told WSMV-TV that two of the bodies retrieved were children who had been swept away from their father.
Cindy Dunn, 48, and her husband Jimmy, 49, of Waverly were rescued from their attic by a crew using a bulldozer.
“Hell. That is the ordeal we were forced to endure,” Cindy Dunn told The Tennessean.
She said her husband awoke her Saturday and informed her that her car had been forced into their property by flooding. Eventually, the water level in their home reached at least six feet (1.8 meters), causing them to evacuate to the attic. Dunn stated that the rooftop was out of the question.
“My husband is undergoing treatment for cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy. Additionally, I am an amputee. As a result, there was nowhere else to go but the attic,” Dunn explained.
Dunn stated that their home and nearby properties "had vanished."
Just east of Waverly, the town of McEwen received around 17 inches of rain in less than a day, necessitating water rescues, road closures, and communication delays. According to the National Weather Service Nashville, the rainfall total surpassed the state's 24-hour record of 13.6 inches set in 1982, however Saturday's data would have to be confirmed.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee tweeted on Saturday, "Tennesseans, please be mindful of rising floodwaters in areas of Middle Tennessee due to significant rains." We are actively assisting emergency response officials and first responders as they assist flooded Tennessee residents.”
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency activated its emergency operations center and stated that the flooding was being responded to by agencies such as the Tennessee National Guard, the state Highway Patrol, and Fire Mutual Aid. TEMA issued a statement describing the situation as "hazardous and developing" and advising residents to avoid travel to the impacted counties.
Klein is uncertain about the future of his family and community.
He also has no idea what happened to the two girls and puppy he saw clinging to the board. He had heard that a girl and a puppy had been rescued downstream, as well as another female, but he wasn't certain it was them.
“This is the third flood of a hundred years in around ten years,” he said, referring to the 2010 and 2019 floods. “However, this is 100 times worse than either of them. According to the most recent information I saw, 31 people were reported missing. Because this is a tiny town, the chances are I know the majority of those people.”