At least 22 people died and several others were missing after heavy weekend rain and torrential floods overwhelmed parts of Tennessee, damaging homes, toppling trees and upending cars, officials said.
Twenty of the deaths were in Waverly, a small city about 75 miles west of Nashville, said Grant Gillespie, chief of the city’s public safety department.
“It’s been a huge impact for this small community,” Gillespie told reporters Monday. “The town will wear these scars for many decades.”
The Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency had originally said about 40 other people were missing. But by Monday, authorities believed only 10 were unaccounted for.
“Our missing has come down slightly today, I think we’re probably less than 10 that we’re truly concerned at this point,” Gillespie said. “I’m reasonably sure that were less than 10 right now that we’re truly not sure the whereabouts of or that we don’t think we’ll resolve fairly easily.”
Even as the rain stopped and the sun came out Monday, Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said he can’t believe the destruction.
“Right now I close my eyes and I can’t get over the devastation,” Davis said.
Among the dead were 7-month-old twins who were swept away in the floods, the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency said. The siblings’ bodies had been recovered, Davis told NBC affiliate WSMV of Nashville.
Also among the dead was a best friend of the sheriff, Davis told the station Sunday.
“He drowned in this,” Davis said, adding that he gets “emotional” if he slows down and talks about the disaster. “If I stay working and focused, we work through it.”
The foreman of an event venue and ranch owned by the country music icon Loretta Lynn also died in the floods, the ranch said Sunday. Images published by local news outlets showed the venue, about 11 miles south of Waverly, inundated by flooding, and in a Facebook post, the ranch said the foreman, Wayne Spears, was swept away by floodwaters.
“Wayne has been a family friend to the Lynns and a fixture to the Ranch for decades and we are all devastated by his passing,” the ranch said.
Davis said authorities spent Sunday responding to 911 calls, conducting welfare checks and trying to get a picture of how badly damaged the area was.
Humphreys County schools will be closed for the rest of the week.
Residents using the Waverly Water Supply were instructed to boil water for consumption Monday, and 2,000 homes remained without power.
Multiple bridges and roadways were still closed, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, which was assessing damage with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Phone services were gradually being restored.
Homes were swept off foundations, and cars were left strewn across the area, officials said. Emergency 911 service was temporarily disconnected; it was functional by Sunday afternoon, Gillespie said.
The state emergency agency said Monday that 93 people stayed in shelters overnight.
The flooding occurred after what most likely was record rainfall, the National Weather Service’s office in Nashville said. More than 17 inches of rain was recorded in Humphreys County in 24 hours Saturday, probably topping the previous record of 13.6 inches in 1982, the agency said.
In nearby North Carolina, flooding caused by remnants of Tropical Storm Fred last week were also deadly. In hard-hit Haywood County, officials said Sunday that five people died and one person remained unaccounted for.
Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News based in California.
Elisha Fieldstadt is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.