Tidal wave and at least 22 deaths as floodwaters ravage rural Tennessee


Along the main street, volunteers distributed hot meals, bottled water and supplies. The churches had been turned into shelters. Some residents persisted in returning home, not knowing where to start.

“It smells of death,” said Ms Burns, 43, describing the stench that assaulted her as soon as she entered her home. “It’s a fight.”

Richard Wheeler, a retired firefighter, said he ran errands on Saturday morning. He returned to find his house was in the middle of the road. He remembered past floods, including one that caused water to flow under his house.

“It’s worse than any of them,” he said. “It’s the worst.”

As he stood on the steps of Waverly Church of Christ, a man slipped a rolled up $ 20 bill to him and a woman in a pink dress and holding her Bible invited him to stay at her home. He said he was staying with his daughter who lives in a town about 10 miles away.

“When it rains, it rains,” the woman told him, “and it rains on you.”

After she left, he choked. He lived alone. He was already assured of what he thought was the case: his neighbors would take care of him. “It is a county very much in love with God,” he said.

Mr. Larkin, 62, was sitting on the floor with his back leaning against the brick wall of the church hall, holding a Capri Sun and a cigarette. He was exhausted. It was also physically painful from being whipped by the choppy water.

Still, he said he was grateful, repeating over and over how grateful he was to the rescuers who picked him up, his wife and his 11-year-old cat. That gratitude, for now, replaced any sadness at having been stuck with only the clothes he was wearing. For now, Mr. Larkin and his wife were staying at the shelter and hoping to get into a motel.

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