This past summer – just 65 miles west of our Nashville, Tennessee office, a horrific tragedy occurred.
I’m sure you heard about it. Middle Tennessee was expecting rainfall, but nobody foresaw how heavy and devastating it would be.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, August 21, an amount of rain equal to 25 percent of average annual rainfall fell in western Middle Tennessee. It caused deadly flash flooding over a wide area.
Particularly hard hit was the small town of Waverly in Humphreys County, as well as Hickman County to the south.
20 killed, many injured
The 10 to 15 inches of rain that fell in less than 12 hours destroyed homes and businesses. Worst of all, it caused 20 deaths and numerous injuries.
Many people evacuated if they were able to. Others became trapped and needed water rescues. And unfortunately, some were unable to make it out alive.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) declared a level three state emergency. TEMA reported that some 700 homes were flooded during the event, mainly in Waverly. More than 4,000 people lost electrical power.
Major roads in and out of Waverly and other area cities were flooded and impassable. Residents who did not have to evacuate were told to boil their water.
Waverly officials said that had the flooding occurred during a school day, it would have been impossible to evacuate students.
4Patriots responds with $25K donation
When natural disasters such as this occur, local officials do everything they can to help. Sadly, it’s usually not enough. They just don’t have the manpower and resources to help everyone who needs assistance.
That’s where an organization such as Team Rubicon comes in. Founded in 2010, Team Rubicon is an international disaster response nonprofit that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly provide relief to communities in need.
Team Rubicon quickly deployed personnel and equipment to help residents of Humphreys and Hickman counties whose homes had been severely damaged.
With the flooding occurring practically in our backyard, 4Patriots wanted to step up and help as well. We donated $25,000 to Team Rubicon’s relief efforts, and some of our employees spent a full day helping clean up the mess.
Team Rubicon dives in to help
Kate Amaral is the Team Rubicon Operations Associate for Tennessee and Kentucky. She’s also a 10-year, post-9/11 U.S. Navy veteran who has worked in military law enforcement and on the anti-terrorism front.
We spoke with her recently to learn more about how Team Rubicon helped people in western Middle Tennessee following the flooding.
“I was involved in getting the operation off the ground,” she said. “That’s my backyard. I was home that day and I’d seen the warnings. I was also seeing things on social media that it was starting to get bad.
“I reached out to the Williamson County emergency people. When I flipped on the news and saw the devastation, I got ahold of the team in Tennessee. Unfortunately, you can’t really respond in person until the flooding starts to recede.
“I was part of the recon team in Waverly and Hickman County,” she continued. “It was utter devastation, with homes knocked off their foundations. We started doing what we could right away, connecting with emergency management and maintaining constant contact with them.
“Seventy-two hours out from the disaster, we had feet on ground. There were Tennessee Titans staff members out there as well. From August 26 through September 10, we worked every day.
“Simultaneously we had an operation happening while Hurricane Ida was coming ashore in Louisiana. We ripped out drywall, flooring and installation, and conducted muck-out operations.
“We did everything we could so that homeowners would not have to pay contractors to do it. A lot of those homeowners did not have flood insurance. We’ll help everyone we can, but we prefer to first help those who are under-insured or not insured.”
Community response was amazing
Kate said the community’s response to Team Rubicon’s efforts was amazing.
“That’s the most rewarding portion of any operation,” she said, “and I think Greyshirt Nation would agree.
“Hearing the stories of people who were rescued from their cars when the flooding happened, including a woman in her 70s, warmed everyone’s hearts.
“The communities in Waverly and Hickman County were just wonderful. So many showed love for people they didn’t know.”
A brotherhood and sisterhood
Kate, who was a Team Rubicon volunteer leader before becoming a fulltime employee in ((YEAR???)), said her introduction to the organization came in 2012 following the Moore, Oklahoma tornado.
“I saw a Team Rubicon trailer and wondered who they were,” she said. “I thought it was awesome that other vets were out there helping people. I got involved and two years later we worked in Tennessee where I was living following a straight-line wind event.
“We spent four days pulling trees to the curb after chainsaw operators worked on them. I’ll tell you, pulling brush will wear you out. Two months after Hurricane Michael, I flew down to Florida to help there.
“It was a very fulfilling experience with a conglomeration of folks. We ate together, pre-COVID, and it was an amazing brotherhood and sisterhood with people from all over the nation. Some were vets, some first responders, some moms and dads, some educators. This set me on fire for the cause.
One disaster response after another
“Then we had the March 3 (2020) tornadoes in middle Tennessee. I sent information to Team Rubicon and they asked me if I wanted to be on a recon team. They said they’d coach me through it.
“We were there hours after it happened and we got Greyshirts there soon after. It was eye-opening for me. When you know people who lost everything, it’s the hardest experience. I worked there for 10 days straight.
“Shortly after that the organization started to pivot because of COVID. We started focusing on food banks and neighbors helping neighbors. We flexed into the humanitarian space.
“Last year we responded to the Gulf Coast time after time due to Hurricanes Delta, Laura and Zeta. We were able to teach other Greyshirts how to tarp roofs. Recovery can be a long process. We’re still rebuilding homes for people after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.”
And that’s the beauty of Team Rubicon. Not only do they respond quickly to natural disasters – no matter where they occur – but they stay until the job gets done. The people of Waverly and Hickman County are so very grateful that they do.