The horror of deadly floods still haunts Tennessee town one year later

On Aug. 21, 2021, about 17 inches of rain fell within 24 hours near Waverly, TN

About an hour and a half west of Nashville’s loud honky tonks sits the quiet town of Waverly, TN.

But Waverly is particularly quiet this summer as it faces the one-year anniversary of a historic flood that devastated the town and killed at least 22 people.

On Aug. 21, 2021, about 17 inches of rain fell near Waverly, causing a nearby creek to rise quickly. The water flooded many homes and businesses, sweeping some of them off their foundations.

"The flood just came in so fast, so forceful," said Scott Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church Waverly. "I can't even imagine what to compare it to, just how fast and how much force it came in with."

As the floodwaters rose in Waverly, many residents lost their businesses and homes.

Brown and members of his church provided food, shelter, showers and other relief efforts during and after the flood. The church also became ground-zero for reuniting family members.


"We just resolved that we were going to say, ‘Yes’ — whatever the question was, we were going to say ‘Yes, whatever is needed’," Brown said.

Impact across state

The storm that poured over Waverly also struck towns in 15 other counties in Middle Tennessee.

The highest rainfall recorded was in Humphreys County, where Waverly is located. A wastewater treatment plant in McEwen, which lies about 15 minutes east of Waverly, recorded 20.73 inches of rainfall within 24 hours.

This broke the previous state record of 13.6 inches set in Milan, Tennessee, on Sept. 13, 1982.


FOX 17 in Nashville reported that the flood is estimated to have caused $23.9 million in damage in the Volunteer State. In the wake of this destruction, President Joe Biden approved a federal disaster declaration for Tennessee on Aug. 24.

According to the FOX Forecast Center, the rain started at about 4 a.m. EDT on Aug. 21 and continued for nearly eight hours. It was the result of what is called "training" storms -- storms that continually redevelop over the same area and dump tremendous amounts of rain.

On the anniversary

One year after the historic flood, more work remains to help bring Waverly back on its feet.

"There are still a lot of lingering things, still a lot of unknowns, still a lot of people dealing with trying to make up the financial disparity between what they've had to pay and what they've had to endure, what they've lost," Brown said.

He mentioned that businesses are still struggling, many homes are still "trying to figure a way out" and the town’s elementary and middle schools, which were destroyed in the flood, have yet to be rebuilt.

These sights are a reminder that the fight to salvage Waverly continues.

"I'm hoping one day that... we will move beyond it, be able to talk about [the flood], be free from the deep settled trauma that these kinds of things bring — the amazing force of power of it, the fact we had no control over it," Brown said.

"Just the blur of that day and the horrors we saw, the things we saw since that in time, hopefully, people will have been able to get the right therapy, get the right help, work through the pain and be free of any ongoing long term traumas," he added. 

"That's part of what I'm hoping now that we're at the year mark."