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Sheriff: Source of surge of water likely caused deaths


Flooding in Waverly, Tennessee, on Aug. 21, 2021.
Flooding in Waverly, Tennessee, on Aug. 21, 2021.(WSMV)
Updated: Aug. 27, 2021 at 4:52 PM CDT
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WAVERLY, Tenn. (WSMV) - The Sheriff of Humphreys County believes a surge of water from broken earth beneath a CSX railroad track is likely responsible for the deaths of many people who were caught unaware.

“There was no gradual rise to this. Up in one of these flood areas, it went from bone dry to waist-deep water in somewhere less than 15 minutes,” Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said.

Davis’ confirmation comes after News4 Investigates reported how flood victims were caught off guard by the rapidly rising water and that the source of the surge was likely from broken earth beneath the CSX railroad.

On Thursday, Sheriff Chris Davis asked News4 Investigates to come back to Waverly to show from the ground what Drone4 had captured from above on the day of the flood.

Riding in the back of his pickup truck, Davis drove us to the elevated land on which the railroad stands to show that it acted as a levy, holding back floodwaters from Trace Creek in a forested area.

Davis said when that rock under the railroad broke through in two places, the water pushed out, likely spilling into the already swollen creek and rushing towards homes.

“This is what bothers me - did these people die because of that rush of water - or was it the gradual rise?” asked News4 Investigates.

Philisie and Bob Wilcox live not far from where the water surged through the broken earth.

“It just rose so quickly,” Philisie Wilcox said. “I’ve been white water rafting. It reminded me of that.”

After hearing from so many flood victims that they were surprised by the sudden rise of the water, the Sheriff’s office examined satellite maps and the muddy terrain where the surge rushed through.

“This is not a backflow of water that caused this here. That had to be some force and some power,” Davis said.

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