In Waverly, the epicenter of the destruction, anguish rippled through the closely knit community of about 4,100 people.
Terri Owen recalled standing on her toes amid the storm on Saturday, struggling to keep her head above the rising water. She could see the woman across the street clinging to a pillar on her front porch, her cries for help punctuated by piercing screams. Two days later, the woman’s voice was still in her head.
“We can’t help you!” Ms. Owen remembered shouting back.
The water was furious. Stoves, refrigerators and cars whipped by. The pillar came loose, Ms. Owen said, and the screaming intensified. The entire house was swooped off its moorings and carried down the block. The woman died, and so did her adult son.
“God had no more favor on me than the woman who lost her life,” Ms. Owen said, pulling down her sunglasses to wipe her eyes as she sat on her friend’s muddy front porch. “I was just in a different place.”
Many were straining on Monday to grasp all that had been lost. School has been canceled for at least a week, officials said, and many roads and bridges remained closed to traffic.
The devastation could be seen for about 10 miles, Sheriff Davis said.
Homes were not just flooded but torn from their foundations and obliterated. Cars were tossed across roads. The hospital, already busy with Covid-19 patients, is now caring for those injured in the storm, according to Chief Grant Gillespie of the Waverly Department of Public Safety.
When Ryan Amell’s wife posted his phone number on Facebook on Saturday and said he was setting out on the water to rescue people in his small aluminum duck-hunting boat, he was immediately messaged by dozens in desperation.