National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Buffalo Springs/Tampico, Tennessee Fatal Flash Flood
July 1, 1997


Estimates of 12 hour rainfall range from around 4 inches at an automated rain gage in Luttrell, Tennessee, to over 7 inches in plastic rain gages in nearby Buffalo Springs. Several local residents reported 10 inch metal buckets filled to the top. Most of the rain fell between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. on July 1, 1997.
Flooding around no parking sign
The above photo was taken on July 2, over 28 hours after the rain had stopped. The water had been over the top of this "NO PARKING" sign and damaged it. You can see the water still flooding the small parking area below the falls.
View from above the falls
The view from above the falls. For perspective, notice the "NO PARKING" sign from the picture above in the left center.
View of car damaged by flood waters
This is what happens to automobiles that are caught in flash floods. A woman came upon the flooded road in the early morning darkness, unable to adequately make out the water running over the road. Her car became stuck near a guard rail, so she wisely left the car. The water was not that deep yet, so she decided to try and free her car. She could not get it to move as the water ran up against it, so she left the car, again, and held on to something stable, probably the guard rail.
As she was holding on for her life, the car in the picture came around the bend in the road and the driver saw the woman and her car stuck against the rail. He swerved to the left to avoid colliding with them, and was swept into the flood, which was deep enough by that time to wash away any vehicle. His car was retrieved later in the day about a half mile downstream, in this condition. His body was found two miles downstream. Rescue personnel and search teams risked their own lives to search for and retrieve their friend.
After this, a third driver came along and this Good Samaritan rescued the woman from her perch, and they watched as her car was carried off into the raging creek.
Another view of damaged car.

For perspective, note the man in the background in the photo. The best thing is to not drive into water running over roads! The second best thing is to get out of your car immediately if you are caught unexpectedly in running water. A foot of running water can carry away most vehicles.