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At least 22 dead after severe flooding in Tennessee

Aug. 22 (UPI) -- At least 22 people are dead following heavy flooding in Tennessee, emergency officials said on Sunday.

Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told The Tennessean that crews were searching for dozens of missing people after more than 15 inches of rain fell in the area, killing nearly two dozen people.

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"People are trapped in their homes and have no way to get out," National Weather Service Nashville meteorologist Krissy Hurley said. "Water is up to their necks. It is catastrophic -- the worst kind of situation."

Two bodies recovered were toddlers who were swept away from their father by the storm.

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Buddy Frazier, the mayor of Waverly, which ones one of the areas hardest hit by the storm, told WKRN that some described the flood onslaught "as a tidal wave."

"It was something like the quickness of a tornado," he said.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a Level 3 State of Emergency in the state, urging residents in Middle Tennessee to avoid driving or crossing flooded roads or walkways.

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President Joe Biden said in a press conference that the White House has reached out to the affected communities to offer support.

"I want to begin by expressing my deepest condolences for the sudden and tragic loss of life due to this flash flood," he said.

A state of emergency was also in effect for Dickson, Hickman, Houston and Humphreys counties while a flash flood warning was in effect until 11 p.m.

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An 8 p.m. curfew also remained in place Sunday.

The Tennessee National Guard deployed 50 soldiers to respond to the flooding and participate in rescue efforts.

"Our first priority is to assist with getting responders access to the area and conduct rescue operations," Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes said in a tweet. "We'll continue to increase the number of forces as the situation dictates and we'll be positioning additional specialty units to respond as needed."

Tennesse Gov. Bill Lee urged caution in a tweet on Saturday afternoon.

"Tennesseans, please stay cautious of rising floodwaters caused by heavy rainfall in parts of Middle TN," he wrote. "We are actively working with emergency response officials and first responders as they support Tennesseans in flooded areas."

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Humphreys County Sheriff's Office said on its Facebook page that a reunification center has been set up at a local high school and that classes for the county have been canceled for the week.

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