WAVERLY, Tenn. — Twenty-two people are dead and officials are searching for about 20 people after heavy rainfall led to major flooding in parts of Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
"We’ve experienced a devastating loss of life over the last couple of days. We’ve lost more in this event than we did in the train explosion in 1978," said Grant Gillespie, the police and fire chief of Waverly, Tennessee, the community that saw the most severe flooding. "But we’ve seen the community come together."
Dickson, Humphreys and Hickman County — all located just west of the Nashville area — have seen the most severe flooding. The flooding was prompted by heavy rainfall on Saturday — Humphreys County saw as much as 10 to 12 inches of rain within a six-hour span Saturday.
Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis initially confirmed 10 fatalities Saturday evening after areas west of Nashville experienced 10 to 12 inches of rainfall in about six hours Saturday. Eleven additional deaths were confirmed by officials on Sunday.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) has issued a state of emergency in response. The agency has also opened shelters in Dickson, Hickman and Humphreys counties.
The Humphreys County Sheriff's Office has set up a reunification center at McEwen High School. Anyone with missing person information or looking for a loved one is asked to meet at the school.
Humphreys County officials said the flooding is so severe, the city of Waverly was only accessible by boat. Officials said water levels were at least eight feet deep in some parts of Waverly.
The National Weather Service reports there have been numerous calls for water rescues and road closures amid an "incredibly dangerous flooding situation" in those counties.
The heavy rain caused Waverly Elementary School to flood. School officials said at least four feet of water were in the school.
The flooding has also caused outages to the cell phone service in Humphreys County.
Waverly residents have been asked to boil their water before drinking or using it for cooking. The Waverly Department of Public Safety issued a boil advisory until the water system can be properly restored. An 8 p.m. local time curfew is also in place for the city of Waverly.
Officials are asking for everyone to stay off the roads to allow emergency operations to continue. In Dickson County, Highway 48 near Jones Creek, Turkey Creek Road and areas around Garners Creek all experienced flash flooding. U.S. 70 in Waverly is also closed.
Floodwater took over parts of Interstate 40 Saturday, causing the Tennessee Highway Patrol to temporarily shut down the interstate in both directions near the 153-mile marker. The roadway has since reopened.
The county's 911 system was interrupted after the call center was flooded.
Three Tennessee Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team crews have been deployed to Humphreys County to assist with ongoing water rescue efforts.
The Nashville Office of Emergency Management is also sending four swift-water rescue teams for assistance.
During a press conference at the White House on Sunday, President Joe Biden offered his "deepest condolences for the loss of life," and said that the White House had been in contact with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee regarding federal support.
This story was originally published by Caroline Sutton on Scripps station WTVF in Nashville.