Twin babies are among the nearly two dozen people who died after record-breaking rain sent floodwaters surging through Middle Tennessee, and about a dozen others still remain missing Monday.
The infants’ grandmother, Angie Willeby, told KTLA sister station WKRN that 7-month-old twins Ryan and Rileigh were lost in catastrophic flash flooding in Humphreys County. She said their parents were trying to escape the rising waters in Waverly with their four children when the twins were swept away.
Their bodies were later found after an extensive search, she said. Willeby added that their other two siblings were not harmed.
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses.
At least 22 people have died as a result of the flooding in Humphreys County, according to Sheriff Chris Davis, with as many as 25 still missing.
Saturday’s flooding took out roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines, leaving people uncertain about whether family and friends survived the unprecedented deluge, with rainfall that more than tripled what forecasters had expected. Emergency workers were searching door to door, said Kristi Brown, a coordinator for health and safety supervisor with Humphreys County Schools.
Many of the missing live in the neighborhoods where the water rose the fastest, said Davis. The names of the missing were on a board in the county’s emergency center and listed on a city of Waverly Facebook page.
Up to 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain fell in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours Saturday, shattering the Tennessee record for one-day rainfall by more than 3 inches (8 centimeters), the National Weather Service said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee toured the area, calling it a “devastating picture of loss and heartache.” 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. The worst storm recorded in this area of Middle Tennessee only dropped 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain, said Krissy Hurley, a weather service meteorologist in Nashville.
“Forecasting almost a record is something we don’t do very often,” Hurley said. “Double the amount we’ve ever seen was almost unfathomable.”