Future is uncertain for many Waverly residents who lost everything

Future is uncertain for many Waverly residents who lost everything

WAVERLY, Tenn., — The people who lost everything line up before 7 a.m. at Mama’s Table to get an order of kindness.

There isn’t much on the menu after the flood took 20 lives and so many dreams. You can get coffee or tea or just conversation and air conditioning.

Inside, you can escape the smell of mildew, which seems to be everywhere or to escape the flies which dive into endless piles of wet belongings. You can get a “Farmer’s Daughter,” which is a cheeseburger with a fried egg on top.

The little cafe – once a real estate office and a hair salon – is a respite for people, full of shock and sadness, who don’t know what they’re going to do next. It also attracts people who want to help, but don’t know exactly how to do that.

Nine days after 17 inches of rain fell causing catastrophic flooding, Mama’s Table binds the community.

Rescue workers and cops come in to sit for a spell. So do city workers, who promised to keep water and electricity running here because the town needs Mama’s Table.

“I’m hugging on everyone,” said owner and cook Stephanie Graham, 58, who is known as “Mama” even to people much older than her.

Waverly, the picturesque seat of Humphreys County, is a place where time moves slowly, neighbors lend a hand and violent crimes are rare.

Its natural beauty attracts campers, canoers and parkgoers – including travelers to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in neighboring Hurricane Mills.

The town movie theater is still operated by the family that built it in 1935.

Mama's Table co-owners Kristen and Stephanie Graham with husband Jim Graham describe the flood damage that has affected their town Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021 in Waverly, Tenn.  As much as 17 inches of rain hit Humphreys County Saturday, causing flood waters to surge throughout the area killing multiple people.

“It’s just a beautiful place with these big rivers next to you. The life is good if it doesn’t overflow, but once you have this kind of problem, it’s a major issue,” said Murat Arik, director of the Business and Economic Research Center in the Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University.

“It’s a sad fact that these poor counties, when they get hit by disaster, recovery becomes a big issue because they don’t have resources to deploy.”

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