Flood-related deaths in Humphreys County rises to 20; No more considered missing

Waverly flooding sky 5 8/21/21
Posted at 11:55 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 19:49:47-04

WAVERLY, Tenn. (WTVF) — Humphrey County Sheriff Chris Davis said the number of deaths due to Saturday's catastrophic flooding has risen to 20.

Waverly Department of Public Safety Chief Grant Gillespie said after a body was recovered on Wednesday morning, the city's missing person list has now been cleared. Rescue and recovery efforts will now come to an end.

Watch the full update from Sheriff Davis and Chief Gillespie in the video player below:

Detectives will now investigate each of the deaths individually to find out exactly what happened to each of the victims. In a news conference on Wednesday, the duo announced the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation implemented new DNA technology to identify the remaining victims. Gillespie added they were treating each death with its own investigation for the department's detectives.

"Each case with respect to the individual deserves it," Gillespie said. "No crime is suspected, but we still want to investigate and figure out what happened. The process will be ongoing."

Mental health aids and chaplains are also on scene to help first responders deal with the trauma they have witnessed during the last few days. Gillespie said he hated that the younger officers had to see what they did, given how fresh they were into their careers as law enforcement officers.

"People were caught off guard and the rain fell at the head of the creek and came rushing down at the same time," Gillespie said. "Mother nature created a horrible fix for people to lose their lives."

The two said Highway 70 should completely reopen by Friday, according to their dispatches with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. CSX is also working to fix the railroad issues in the city.

The city is still under a boil water advisory and an 8 p.m. curfew. Humphreys County schools will remain closed for next week, for the second week in a row.

In memory of the lives lost this weekend, Gov. Bill Lee has called for the flags at the state capitol to fly at half-staff until Friday. Lee signed an executive order on Wednesday morning to provide additional relief efforts for the community and support for the Humphreys County School District.

Damage assessments continue to be underway. On Tuesday night, the sheriff's office said 509 homes were impacted in some way by the flooding. The American Red Cross confirmed Wednesday that 150 homes were majorly damaged and 250 homes were destroyed. Additionally, eight public facilities and 44 commercial properties were impacted.

In just hours, 17 inches of rain fell on Humphreys County, smashing the state's 24-hour rainfall record.

mcewan rainfall record
Storms on Saturday, August 21, 2021, shattered Tennessee's 24-hour rainfall record.

At the reunification center, which has since been closed, 139 families were reunited since the floodwaters overtook the town.

The flooding was so drastic in Waverly, the city was only accessible by boat for much of Saturday.