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Waverly Tennessee: The Path to Recovery – One Year Later

Volunteers remember the days following historic flooding through middle Tennessee

Written by Brianna Phillips
American Red Cross Volunteer 

American Red CrossWaverly, TN – “The flood back in August of 2021… I have never been a part of a natural disaster or anything that devastating before this thing,” recalled Tayla Lynn. “So many lives gone that day, and our whole town really destroyed and not just homes, but businesses and the whole infrastructure of our City of Waverly just wiped out.” 

Cooley Market in Waverly Tennessee. (American Red Cross)
Cooley Market in Waverly Tennessee. (American Red Cross)

That is what Lynn, the granddaughter of country music legend Loretta Lynn, remembered about the flood that devastated the small Tennessee town of Waverly during the early morning hours of August 21st, 2021. The flood was the result of a record-breaking 17-inch rainfall that raised the creek and river levels dramatically.

Entire blocks of homes were destroyed. When the rapid waters diminished, that fateful day claimed 20 lives. All victims were from the City of Waverly, including Lynn’s ranch foreman Wayne Spears, who had been part of her family for over 30 years. 
The Red Cross was there to pick up the pieces of the decimated community as the flood water slowly drained through the town. “It seemed like the Red Cross was there immediately setting up food and shelter and just being there for what you needed,” Lynn said. 
Bruce Felts, one of the dedicated Red Cross volunteers that served after the flood, described the situation as a “rollercoaster of emotions.” A life-long resident of Waverly himself, he still struggles to see his neighbors suffering in the aftermath to this day. “This is a small place, so everyone knows everyone here,” he said, “It makes it very difficult to see people you know having to start over from nothing.” 

Flood Damage in Waverly Tennessee.
Flood Damage in Waverly Tennessee.

A year after the flooding, Waverly has made some progress in rebuilding itself with the Red Cross’ assistance, but it is a long way from being back to normal. Many buildings were either destroyed or had major damage.

School buildings sustained severe damage that has required the relocation of its students to other accommodations. School officials predict that it will take several years for students to be back in a fully operational school building in the town as they rebuild from scratch. 

While progress is slow, Felts preferred to count his communities’ blessings. “Waverly will be recovering from the flood they had for years to come, but sometimes I think it is good to look back and thank God for what didn’t happen,” he said, regarding the flooded school buildings. He noted that the flooding took place on a Saturday, which was a better alternative to a weekday. “If this had been a school day, it could have been so much more devastating,” he recounted. 

Flood Damage in Waverly Tennessee.
Flood Damage in Waverly Tennessee.

The Red Cross would not be able to assist communities like Waverly if not for local volunteers like Bruce Felts. When disaster strikes, the recovery process is much easier when the region has prepared volunteers, ready to respond from their local chapters. 
If you would like to volunteer or donate to help the American Red Cross respond to disasters, visit redcross.org to learn more about how you can get involved and support the Red Cross in your community. 

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members, and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission.

For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross


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