Rescuers are searching for the people still missing after Tennessee’s deadly flash floods.

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U.S.|Rescuers are searching for the people still missing after Tennessee’s deadly flash floods.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/24/us/tennessee-floods-updates.html

The flood struck a rural area of rivers, creeks and rolling woods in and around Humphreys County, about 90 minutes west of Nashville.
Credit...Houston Cofield for The New York Times
  • Aug. 24, 2021, 5:14 a.m. ET

The search teams from across Tennessee that have descended on Humphreys County were pushing forward with urgency on Tuesday to find those whose whereabouts remained unknown after devastating weekend flooding, fearful of the death toll growing further.

At least 21 people have been confirmed dead and about 10 others remained missing, officials said, in catastrophic flash flooding that climate scientists warned will become only more common.

Chief Grant Gillespie of the Waverly Department of Public Safety told reporters that crews were employing heavy equipment to chew through mountains of debris where they feared that people might still be trapped.

“That’s a painstaking process,” he said.

The flooding struck a rural area of rivers, creeks and rolling woods in and around Humphreys County, about 90 minutes west of Nashville. Up to 17 inches of rain fell on Saturday, shattering the state’s 24-hour record by more than 3 inches.

One reason the flood was so deadly is that such smaller-scale storms can be trickier to forecast than large weather systems like hurricanes, which are tracked in part by radar and satellite data. Any heavy rainfall, which produces heat, can cause the forecasting models to perform poorly.

“It’s sort of a worst-case scenario because it’s a small weather system that happens and develops quickly,” said Gary Lackmann, a professor of atmospheric science at North Carolina State University. “For these kinds of events, it’s going to be really difficult to get much lead time or forecast warning.”

Beyond the human toll, the physical devastation has been nearly impossible to comprehend. Entire neighborhoods were shredded. Some homes that were still intact were filled with mud and the rancid stench the water left behind.

In Waverly, the center of the destruction, anguish rippled through the closely knit community of about 4,100 people.

Terri Owen recalled standing on her toes amid the storm on Saturday, struggling to keep her head above the rising water. She could see the woman across the street clinging to a pillar on her front porch, her cries for help punctuated by piercing screams. Two days later, the woman’s voice was still in her head.

“We can’t help you!” Ms. Owen remembered shouting back.

The water was furious. Stoves, refrigerators and cars whipped by. The pillar came loose, Ms. Owen said, and the screaming intensified. The entire house was swooped off its moorings and carried down the block. The woman died, and so did her adult son.

“God had no more favor on me than the woman who lost her life,” Ms. Owen said, pulling down her sunglasses to wipe her eyes as she sat on her friend’s muddy front porch. “I was just in a different place.”

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