Tennessee floods: 22 people killed after record rainfall in American state - is it related to Storm Henri?

The meteorological event saw ‘an incredible amount of water in the atmosphere’, which was dumped across the same area ‘over and over and over’

The focus may be on Storm Henri and the disruption the now ex-hurricane is wreaking up the US’ north east coast, but elsewhere in the United States, the weather has been just as deadly.

At least 22 people are known to have been killed in Tennessee after record-breaking rainfall led to surging floodwaters through the middle of the state.

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Rescue crews continue to search desperately for survivors, as the cleanup gets underway.

But what exactly happened? And what is the extent of the damage?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What happened?

Up to 17 inches of rain fell in Humphreys County in the centre of the state of Tennessee in less than 24 hours on Saturday (21 August).

That’s a new record for one-day rainfall in Tennessee, and one that surpasses the previous high-point by more than three inches, according to the National Weather Service.

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, a scenario scientists have warned may be more common due to climate change.

Many roads in rural areas were made impassable by the waters, as communication infrastructure was affected, limiting telephone and internet connections to large numbers of affected residents.

Though the rains have subsided, affected areas remain flooded, with water damage leaving a heartbreaking trail of damaged homes and businesses in its wake.

How many people have died?

At least 22 people are known to have lost their lives as a result of the flooding, with many more still missing.

Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said the majority of those missing residents lived in the neighbourhoods where the water rose the fastest.

Kristi Brown, a coordinator for health and safety supervisor with Humphreys County Schools, said emergency workers were searching door to door.

Tennessee Emergency Management Director Patrick Sheehan struck a despairing tone as addressed reporters.

“I would expect, given the number of fatalities,” he said, “that we’re going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point rather than rescue efforts.”

The names of the missing were on a board in the county’s emergency centre and listed on a city department’s Facebook page.

Among the dead are twin babies who were swept from their father’s arms, according to surviving family members, and a foreman at country music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch.

At the beginning of a news conference on Storm Henri’s impact, President Joe Biden offered condolences to the people of Tennessee and directed federal disaster officials to talk with the governor and offer assistance.

GoFundMe pages have been made asking for help for funeral expenses for the dead, including the 7-month-old twins.

What role did climate change play?

“Forecasting almost a record is something we don’t do very often,” said Krissy Hurley, a weather service meteorologist in Nashville. “Double the amount we’ve ever seen was almost unfathomable.”

Hurley said it is impossible to know the exact role of climate change in regards to the floods, but she said that in the past year her office has already dealt with floods that used to be expected once every 100 years three times.

“We had an incredible amount of water in the atmosphere,” Hurley said of Saturday’s flooding. “Thunderstorms developed and moved across the same area over and over and over.”

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