Three months later, some parts of Waverly are recovering while others sit untouched

Waverly Three Months Later
Posted at 5:48 PM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 19:42:29-05

WAVERLY, Tenn. (WTVF) — In Waverly, the distance between recovered and recovering can be measured by just a few feet. It's been three months since twenty people died and hundreds of people lost everything they owned when floodwaters inundated the small town.

On Mill Street, some houses are springing back to life. Just down the road is the Public Works building that looks like the water just receded. "It dawns on you, we don’t have that piece of equipment to do that," said Buddy Frazier, mayor of Waverly.

Waverly Public Works should be the headquarters of the city's recovery effort. Instead, it's stuck in insurance purgatory. "We don’t know if this building will be salvageable or not," said Frazier.

Because the Public Works department lost so much of its equipment, Mayor Frazier hired a private firm to handle debris removal. Dozens of stacks are hauled away to the dump each day. The city was able to acquire a contractor so quickly because they were technically still under contract with a firm after the 2019 flood that damaged some homes in the area. "The community will heal faster as we get this, this unsightly debris removed," said Frazier.

But outside the city limits of Waverly, much of the debris piles remain untouched along U.S. 70, where the recovery from the flood is a lot slower. "There’s still a lot of cleaning to do," said Gladys Rochelle.

Rochelle and her husband own a building that housed a furniture store for the last twenty years, and before that, it was a nightclub. "From '93 to '99, it was a country music dance place," she explained.

For the last three months, they've been learning new moves — how to remove inches of thick mud. "This is what we scraped with. We scraped every square foot with this," said Rochelle. "And I’m in pretty doggone good shape after this."

Because volunteers have mainly focused on private homes, most of the work has fallen on them. "A lot of the help has left, yeah," said Rochelle.

A lot of Waverly's population has left too. Some temporarily, others, for good. "There’s just not adequate housing here so we’ve had people leave just to justify housing," said Mayor Frazier.

Which is why it's hard to measure Waverly's recovery, but Frazier will celebrate victories of any magnitude. "We have people, 90 days after this event, start to go back in their homes. So that’s a good sign," said Frazier.

One of Waverly's biggest needs is for more licensed electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians to come take jobs in the area. Frazier says many homeowners are forced to wait until someone becomes available.