Waverly flooding

Flood damage in Waverly

Over a six-hour period on Aug. 21 and 22, a portion of the Midstate was drenched with 9 to 17 inches of rainfall, leading to massive flooding in Waverly, Tenn. The flood that inundated Nashville in 2010 was the result of about 13.5 inches of rain falling over two days. These floods are supposed to be “100-year” events, and while it may sometimes feel like a century has passed since 2010, we are seeing these types of disasters all too often. 

Experts like FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell fear these are the kinds of events we’ll likely see more of due to climate change. In March, heavy rains and resulting flooding took four lives in Nashville. Waverly lost a confirmed total of 20 people to last week’s flooding. Among those killed were Loretta Lynn’s ranch foreman and 7-month-old twins. 

Those dear lives, though difficult and devastating losses, were not the only ones. The flooding took out houses, roads, cell towers and telephone lines. More than 270 homes were destroyed, and 160 others took major damage, according to the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency. Hundreds are without a place to live and are staying on cots in churches or in makeshift aid centers. 

But it’s during these times that we hear and see an outpouring of love, kinship, friendship and great generosity with many rushing to volunteer. Even while hearing about loss and devastation, we’re also reading about the great kindnesses of neighbors, churches and businesses. Tennesseans are resilient, caring people, always ready to lend a hand. 

Case in point: One Tennessean anonymously and generously paid for the funerals of all 20 victims. The GoFundMe campaign set up to cover funeral costs for the 7-month-old twins has, at press time, received more than $120,000 in donations. The Regions Foundation gave $50,000 to support United Way of Humphreys County and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. There was a $50,000 gift from the Tennessee Titans and $100,000 from chemical company Chemours. 

But it’s not just money being offered. There are trailers full of goods, supplies, water, equipment, clothing and more. Individuals, schools and corporations in communities throughout our state are taking it upon themselves to collect donations from neighbors or employees and making sure the items are all transported to where they need to go. 

Jim Glenn lives in Ohio but is a native of Waverly, and he’s one of those who collected items for donation — and his act of kindness has made headlines. With the town of Waverly having a population of only roughly 4,000 people, Glenn says, “Everybody knows everybody,” and that’s why helping is of such importance. “I grew up there,” Glenn told Cincinnati’s WXIX. “I have family down there. But this is America. Anytime somethin’ happens, America comes together. They take care of each other.” This same sentiment is no doubt shared by President Joe Biden, who called our governor last week to offer support and quickly approved the state’s request for an emergency declaration. Federal aid will no doubt be necessary as the rebuilding process begins, but the gifts and efforts of those in our community are invaluable.

Schools will face unique challenges as they attempt to reopen. Teachers are striving to reorganize, though most of their supplies were destroyed. Upon hearing that Waverly High School’s football field and practice facilities were flooded, the Mt. Juliet High School football team, under the direction of their coach Trey Perry, gathered up whatever items they could and donated them to the Waverly Tigers. The Grand Ole Opry partnered with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to raise funds during an Aug. 28 show. In 2010, the Grand Ole Opry House was flooded with about 10 feet of water. Opry executive producer and vice president Dan Rogers said: “We heard from artists after the flood that were so helpful, and an amazing staff that came together and made good things happen out of a horrific tragedy back then. This is just a case of the Opry wanting to do the same 11 years later for someone else in this case.” 

The Waverly Chamber of Commerce has said the outpouring of love and generosity has been great. However, lots more items will be needed for the long haul — things like diapers, formula, baby wipes, toiletries and other nonperishables are still appreciated. Find a list of ways and places to help here.

This flood is tragic to say the least. But Tennesseans are strong; we band together when our neighbors are hurting. It’s been very moving and inspiring to see the outpouring of donations and volunteerism — Tennesseans are resilient.  

Bill Freeman

Bill Freeman is the owner of FW Publishing, the publishing company that produces the Nashville Scene, Nfocus, the Nashville Post and Home Page Media Group in Williamson County.

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