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22 dead, 12 unaccounted for after flooding in Humphreys County

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WAVERLY, TN (WSMV) - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has asked President Biden for an Expedited Major Disaster Declaration for the four counties - including Humphreys were at least 22 people died - impacted by Saturday's catastrophic flooding.

The request comes as search and rescue efforts continued as the community attempted to pick up the pieces.

Lee's request seeks the declaration for Dickson, Hickman, Houston and Humphreys counties. The request is an additional step, along with the joint preliminary damage assessments TEMA and FEMA are coordinating Monday with local officials toward obtaining federal recovery assistance.

On Monday morning, the Waverly Department of Public Safety reported 12 people were still unaccounted for. Search and rescue teams were able to move into the creek channels to search for victims now that the water has receded. Heavy equipment was also in place to help move debris.

Waverly Department of Public Safety Chief Grant Gillespie said the search process was going slower because of the debris.

“The town will wear these scars for many decades,” Gillespie said.

The devastation in Humphreys County began about 1/2-mile west of McEwen and continued to Trace Creek and Denver Hill area on the west end of Waverly, a path of 7-10 miles, according to Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis.

“We’re not talking about people getting houses flooded. We’re talking about houses removed from the foundations, houses where people can’t get in because floors are gone, cars are gone,” Davis said.

The TVA rain gauge in McEwen registered 17.02 inches of rain on Saturday, which shattered the state record set in 1982 in Milan, TN.

Highway 70 in Gorman remains closed and impassible to motorists, according to the McEwen Police Department.

Gillespie warned city and county residents to beware of contractors and tow truck operators who are coming into town.

“We’re beginning to see people trying to take advantage of residents, so I would ask residents to be very careful about who you conduct business with,” Gillespie said. “If you don’t know a particular tow company that wants to remove cards from your yard or a home repair person that wants to help with the repairs, please vet those people and make sure you’re doing business with legitimate contractors and builders and handyman. I would ask people to really be careful about who they’re doing business with.”

Waverly resident Justin Humbles describes Saturday's flood and the recovery effort.

Gillespie said that at this point, nothing has been criminal in nature, he just didn’t want residents who are vulnerable at this time to be taken advantage of.

“We’re just hearing about, I guess for lack of a better word, shady contractors. Folks that are wanting payment upfront or that are just, we don’t know who they are. They’ve just popped in here, maybe trying to take advantage of a situation. It’s not that we’re trying to keep local contractors with a job, that’s not it at all. We don’t want anyone to be taken advantage of. I think we certainly saw a little of that in 2010 when flooding happened.

“We just don’t want that to happen here, and we’re watching for you to come to town.”

Neighbors come together to lift each other up after the devastating flooding that swept through the Midstate over the weekend. Hear what he lost in the flooding that he can never replace.

“I have one picture of my grandmother and she was the one who encouraged me to go into the flower business and I can't find it and it was that one picture,” Waverly resident Ted Rice said. “I do have her wedding picture, but it was that one picture of her that I’m unable to find. That was the hardest thing because you know how a grandmother is.”

Neighbors come together to lift each other up after the devastating flooding that swept through the Midstate over the weekend.

The county has established a hotline – 931-888-8011 or 931-888-8012 – for volunteers and others helping with cleanup and recovery to check in.

Public Safety asks for people not to drive in town unless for essential travel.

Lee and Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty toured and spoke with residents in Waverly on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday, Blackburn, Hagerty, Rep. Jim Cooper and Rep. Mark Green sent a letter to President Biden urging him to approve the governor's request.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel will begin joint preliminary damage assessments on Monday in Dickson, Hickman, Houston and Humphreys counties.

TEMA and FEMA will be working with local emergency officials to determine the scope of damage caused by the catastrophic flash flooding and severe weather on Saturday.

The joint assessments are a first step in determining if Tennessee and the affected counties may qualify for federal recovery assistance. TEMA may request further assessments with FEMA as damage information is compiled.

A boil water alert remains in place for the city of Waverly as crews continue work to repair water line breaks and restore service.

The American Red Cross reports 93 shelter occupants overnight.

Multiple bridges and roadways in the impacted area are still closed.

Telecommunication services are gradually being restored to the area.

Humphreys County school officials announced Sunday that school would be closed through at least Friday of this week. At least three schools in Waverly were impacted by the flooding.

As of Monday morning, Meriweather Lewis Electric Cooperative reported 2,500 were still without power in Humphreys County, in addition to 200 without power in Hickman County and isolated homeowners without power in Houston County.

In addition to infrastructure, crews in Humphreys County are working to connect homes and businesses to help with cleanup efforts. Mobile operations center is also being established due to the Waverly office being impacted by the flooding. Due to spacing, it will not be accessible by the public like the normal office. Information about the setup will be released in the coming days.

As power is restored to locations, MLConnect broadband is able to determine what repairs are needed on the network.

MLEC crews from other counties along with crews from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation and Service Electric are helping in restoration efforts.

“It is a critical time in our restoration process for lineworkers in all counties and office personnel in Waverly establishing a new workspace,” said MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan in a news release. “We are grateful for the support and patience of all those we serve.”