At least 22 people are dead after major flooding over the weekend devastated parts of Tennessee, with searches underway for more than 40 other people who are missing, authorities told the Associated Press on Sunday.
The rainfall was likely historic, the National Weather Service said. Preliminary data from McEwen, Tennessee, recorded more than 17 inches of rain — the highest ever in a 24-hour period in state history. On Sunday, rescue crews were going door to door in search of missing people, with deputies also responding to calls for welfare checks, Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said.
But rescue efforts were hampered by the damage to the infrastructure, including the loss of cell service, caused by the flooding. A sheriff's office Facebook post was filled with comments from people seeking to reconnect with family members. In another Facebook post, the Waverly Department of Public Safety posted a list of more than 40 missing people and asked residents to contact the agency if they had physically seen or talked to someone listed. Waverly, a city of about 4,000 people, is the county seat of Tennessee's Humphreys County.
In an emotional interview with WSMV, Davis said one of his best friends had been among those found dead. Also among the dead were 7-month-old twins, who were swept away by the floodwaters from their parents and two siblings, WKRN reported. A GoFundMe page had been set up for the twins' family.
"Yeah, it's tough, but we're going to move forward," the sheriff said. "In a small town, small community, we know each other, we love each other. I've always said one of our biggest assets in this county is when bad things happen ... our people are going to come out."
Davis told locals not to travel unless necessary and that an 8 p.m. curfew remained in effect.
The National Weather Service's Nashville office also acknowledged the emotional impact the flooding had on the region.
"While we marvel at the power of nature, we deeply regret when it brings about tragic circumstances," the office said. "Those of us who have never lived through a flood of this magnitude cannot possibly know what it's like."
Weather disasters are inextricably linked to human-induced climate change. The planet has already warmed 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, according to NASA, and that’s making disasters worse. Wildfire seasons are getting longer. Hurricanes are getting wetter and more dangerous. Heat waves are getting hotter, more frequent, and longer-lasting. Heavier rainfall across the US is triggering more inland flooding. And the cost of climate disasters is soaring. Stopping this vicious circle will require drastically reducing our reliance on climate-polluting fossil fuels.