Staffers from London to Nashville teamed up from the moment it became clear that Tennessee flooding was causing death and destruction on a catastrophic scale, capturing the full dimensions of the tragedy.
Late Saturday, Atlanta desk editor R.J. Rico moved aggressively in pursuit of the story. Acting on information unearthed by user-generated content sleuth Nishit Morsawala in London, Rico conducted a late-night interview with Kansas Klein, the owner of a pizzeria in Waverly, Tennessee, who described standing on a bridge and watching two girls holding a puppy and clinging to a wooden board sweep past in the water below. The early presentation, which included compelling UGC video of the devastation, was so vivid that AP Deputy Managing Editor Noreen Gillespie said it felt like AP was already on the ground in Middle Tennessee.
Reporter Jonathan Mattise and photographer Mark Humphrey set out at first light Sunday to McEwen and Waverly where they captured personal stories and heartbreaking images of the destruction wrought by 17 inches of rain in a single day. Working with colleagues John Raby in West Virginia and Jeffrey Collins in South Carolina, and freelance photographer John Amis, Mattise and Humphrey delivered a moving portrait in real time of a storm that took the lives of at least 22 people, left dozens of others missing and the remaining residents of a rural Tennessee community straining to cope with the devastation.
The widely played all-formats coverage deftly examined the unusual nature of the storm and its likely connection to climate change, laying out its impact for a global audience that will almost certainly be experiencing similar storms going forward.