Twin 7-month-old babies were swept from their father’s arms during devastating flooding in rural Tennessee that left dozens more dead or missing.
By early evening, the death toll in Humphreys County in the middle of the state had risen to 22, with more feared to have perished.
Record-setting rains on Saturday led to swollen creeks that unleashed flash floods in Waverly and the surrounding area, swamping homes and leaving residents clinging to debris in raging rapids.
“They were washed away in the flood,” a relative of the twins wrote on GoFundMe. “The mother grabbed a tree and the father had the 2 twins the 5 year old and 19 month old and sadly the 2 baby’s left his arms!” The infants’ grandmother confirmed their death to local station WZTV.
As the floodwaters receded on Sunday, emergency crews began searching for the living and dead in a hellscape dotted with debris and cars standing on end in mud. Survivors, meanwhile, shared the harrowing scenes they had witnessed.
Kansas Klein, whose pizzeria was destroyed by 7 feet of water, told the Associated Press he saw two girls holding onto a puppy and a wood board sweep by her. He did not know their fate.
He said a low-income housing complex took the brunt of the flooding.
“It was devastating: buildings were knocked down, half of them were destroyed,” Klein said. “People were pulling out bodies of people who had drowned and didn’t make it out.”
Over the course of Sunday, the death toll rose hour by hour.
“We’re working very diligently to identify, photograph, reunite and get some questions answered for families—and that's really tough considering our logistics, without phones and communications,” Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told reporters. Phone and power lines were down throughout the county, and many roads were impassable.
He choked up as he talked about the scope of the loss in a tight-knit community.
“They just went and recovered one of my best friends—he drowned in this,” he said. “It's tough but we’re going to move forward.”
The speed and brutality of the rain shocked weather forecasters. Most had predicted four to six inches of rain would fall in the town of McEwen, also in Humphreys County, but more than 17 inches ended up falling on Saturday, breaking the state record of 13 inches in 24 hours.
Krissy Hurley, a forecaster in Nashville, told the AP, “Forecasting almost a record is something we don’t do very often. Double the amount we’ve ever seen was almost unfathomable.”