Loretta Lynn’s Granddaughter, Tayla Lynn, on Tennessee Flood Cleanup: ‘It’s Going to Take More Than Us’
As Americans woke up Thursday morning (Sept. 2) to devastation on the East Coast caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, country artist Tayla Lynn found herself feeling somewhat helpless.
“There is so much happening in the world, and we as a people have a duty to take care of each other,” the country artist reflects. “My part of the world happens to be Humphreys County. And our town has come together and helped with what we can, but it’s going to take more than us.”
In late August, at least 20 people (per CNN) died in that area after 17 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours, leaving a path of destruction throughout the town of Waverly, Humphreys County and Lynn's grandmother Loretta Lynn’s famous ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. Among the dead is the ranch's foreman, Wayne Spears.
“It's almost like you're always in fight mode,” Tayla Lynn explains. “You just keep doing stuff and trying to help. But everyone just looks like zombies, you know?”
The night before the Tennessee tragedy was a rather normal one for Lynn and her family: They spent the evening at the "little local movie theater" and music venue in town. They didn’t stay out too late, though, because they had a busy morning ahead.
“I was up early [on Saturday morning] because I was going to our little local dress shop to get my stage dresses,” remembers Lynn, who is currently on tour alongside Conway Twitty’s grandson, Tre Twitty. “But when the store owner called to cancel and told me to stay home and stay safe, I felt as if something bigger was going on.”
As a longtime resident of Middle Tennessee, Lynn has long seen her share of deep water and flooding. But what she saw on the morning of Aug. 21 when she ventured out into town was like nothing she had ever seen before.
“There were houses floating across the street,” she remembers Lynn. “So, we flipped around and went back to the ranch. And by the time we got to the ranch, we could no longer back up. We were trapped in a pocket with water coming up and surrounding us.”
Fortunately, thanks to her knowledge of her family’s ranch, Lynn knew she and the people staying on the grounds had to "get up on the hill." Within seconds, there was 15 feet of water where they once stood.
“Our ranch foreman, Wayne, had been tragically swept away in the water as the water started receding. We searched for him all day and we couldn't find him," Lynn says quietly. Her thoughts also were with Loretta Lynn ("Memaw," as Tayla calls her), who was safe throughout the ordeal thanks to the mere location of her home on the property.
“The wonderful thing about her being in such a historic home is that the house was built up on a hill, and it would take a lot more than even a massive flood to get up there,” Tayla Lynn says with a dose of gratitude in her voice. “We knew that she was okay, but she was, of course, worried about everyone else.”
Only a few days after the flooding in Tennessee, Lynn got back out on the road. She had tour dates scheduled in Louisiana, one of the many states reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ida.
“Being in Louisiana and seeing their devastation just triggers how many lives we have lost at home,” Lynn admits. “Just thinking about the woman whose baby is gone — imagine that for a minute. Imagine your baby swept away. It's unimaginable.”
In the wake of the flood, the Grand Ole Opry has partnered with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to raise money for those affected. In addition, a benefit concert — Waverly Strong: A Concert for Disaster Relief — is set for Sept. 7 at 7PM CT at City Winery Nashville and will include performances by artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Drew Baldridge and Tigirlily.
Lynn, too, still has a GoFundMe page up for those looking to contribute money directly to her hometown.
“The love we have received is so great,” she says, but adds, “We still have so many people displaced, but where will they go? I pray that in a month, we still have that support that we're still going to need ...
"There will be years of rebuilding," Lynn continues. "I mean, people keep saying months, but, I mean, it is going to be a long, long time.”