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22 People Are Dead After Recording-Breaking Rain Hits Tennessee

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

More than 20 people are still missing after catastrophic flooding washed through several Tennessee towns. The state has officially reported 22 fatalities. This is at least the second major flooding in Tennessee this year. And the Environmental Protection Agency predicts flooding will continue to increase in the state because of climate change. From member station WPLN, Caroline Eggers talked with a young woman who survived being swept away.

CAROLINE EGGERS, BYLINE: Hope Collier was asleep when the rain began pouring. Her grandma woke her up and said they needed to leave. But the flooding escalated fast. Before they could grab their keys, their Jeep was gone, later found in a tree. They made for the stairs. But the rushing water's powerful pool took hold of Hope and dragged her from her home. She wrestled underwater as the current pulled her through city streets for more than half a mile before eventually finding her footing.

HOPE COLLIER: My nanny thought I was dead for two hours. And it was really terrifying. Best way to explain it was like a roller coaster with no rules.

EGGERS: This weekend's downpour will more than likely set Tennessee's record for the most rainfall in 24 hours. One town recorded 17 inches. But for most families, the worst effects happened in minutes. Philip Albritton barely made it home in time to be with his family during the surge.

PHILIP ALBRITTON: There was water up to my knees at the front porch, and my brother-in-law had my daughter, one of my daughters in his arms, and he was waist deep in water. My other daughter was, like, climbing on my wife. And my dogs were swimming.

EGGERS: By the next day, the water had all but disappeared. But the devastation remained. Uprooted trees littered the landscape. Entire houses crumbled. Roads, roofs and soil collapsed, while cars and even mobile homes slid into streams. On Sunday afternoon, police were still walking along banks, searching for bodies. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee credited the destruction to the rainfall's timeframe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BILL LEE: It was dramatic to hear the stories of how fast this happened in the community, which is part of the reason that so many people lost their lives, and there are still so many missing.

EGGERS: Hope's family is all together now. When her drenched figure finally emerged on her driveway, her grandma sobbed. Her younger brother, who had been limping from injuries, ran to embrace her. For NPR News, I'm Caroline Eggers in Nashville.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEAS OF YEARS' "IN COLLUSION WITH THE WAVES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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