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Tennessee floods show a pressing climate danger across America: ‘Walls of water’

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Residents of Waverly, Tenn., are struggling to make sense of the devastation after flash floods tore through their town on Aug. 21. (Erin Patrick O'Connor, Stevie Charles Rees/The Washington Post)

Janet Rice never suspected that Trace Creek could get so high. It would take an ocean surging 500 miles from the coast to her rural town in middle Tennessee.

Then the weekend happened. More than 17 inches of rain fell in a single day on Saturday, overtopping the region’s many rivers and submerging places not previously considered floodplains within a matter of hours. Rice’s family business, a feed store that had stood for a century, was ripped in half. At least 21 people are dead, hundreds of homes are in shambles and the wreckage of people’s lives is strewn across the landscape.

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