HUMPHREYS COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN/AP/WNCN) — Twin babies died after being swept away by floodwaters in Waverly, as their family tried to escape the rising water early Saturday morning.
The siblings’ grandmother, Angie Willeby said that 7-month-old twins, Ryan and Rileigh were among the rising numbers of those dead after catastrophic flash flooding in Humphreys County.
Willeby said the children’s parents were attempting to escape the rising waters with their four children when Ryan and Rileigh were swept away.
The twins were yanked from their father’s arms by floodwaters as they tried to escape.
Their bodies were later found after an extensive search, she explained.
Willeby added that their other two siblings were not harmed.
The family has set up an online fundraising page to help with funeral expenses.
At least 22 people were killed and rescue crews searched desperately Sunday amid shattered homes and tangled debris for dozens of people still missing after record-breaking rain sent floodwaters surging through Middle Tennessee.
Saturday’s flooding in rural areas took out roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines, leaving families uncertain about whether their loved ones survived the unprecedented deluge. Emergency workers were searching door to door, said Kristi Brown, a coordinator for health and safety supervisor with Humphreys County Schools.
Many of the missing live in the neighborhoods where the water rose the fastest, Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said. Their names were on a board in the county’s emergency center and listed on a city department’s Facebook page.
The dead included twin toddlers who were swept from their father’s arms, according to surviving family members. The sheriff of the county of about 18,000 people some 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Nashville said he lost one of his best friends.
Up to 17 inches of rain fell in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours Saturday, the National Weather Service said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee toured the area, stopping on Main Street in Waverly where some homes were washed off their foundations and people were sifting through their water-logged possessions.
Shirley Foster cried as the governor walked up. She said she just learned a friend from her church was dead.
“I thought I was over the shock of all this. I’m just tore up over my friend. My house is nothing, but my friend is gone,” Foster told the governor.
The hardest-hit areas saw double the rain that area of Middle Tennessee had in the previous worst-case scenario for flooding, meteorologists said. Lines of storms moved over the area for hours, wringing out a record amount of moisture – a scenario scientists have warned may be more common because of global warming.
The downpours rapidly turned the creeks that run behind backyards and through downtown Waverly into raging rapids. Business owner Kansas Klein stood on a bridge Saturday in the town of 4,500 people and saw two girls who were holding on to a puppy and clinging to a wooden board sweep past, the current too fast for anyone to grab them.
He isn’t sure what happened to them. Klein heard that a girl and a puppy had been rescued downstream, and that another girl was also saved, but he wasn’t sure it was them.
By Sunday, the floodwaters were gone, leaving behind debris from wrecked cars, demolished businesses and homes and a chaotic, tangled mix of the things inside.
“It was amazing how quick it came and how quick it left,” Klein said.
The Humphreys County Sheriff Office Facebook page filled with people looking for missing friends and family.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report