Danny Starostka adjusts a sump pump

Danny Starostka adjusts a sump pump in the basement of one of his southeast Kearney duplex rentals. Preparing for repairs, he’s already cut away soggy drywall and removed wet insulation. When wood framing and the concrete wall behind the insulation are dry, he said, repairs can begin.

KEARNEY, Neb. — Sump pumps were thrumming Wednesday afternoon in the 1200 block of Avenue F as residents of the southeast Kearney neighborhood hustled to rid their basements of water.

Larry Brown, who has lived in Kearney since 1991 and at 1215 Ave. F for 20 years, said he has never seen anything like Tuesday’s flood.

“I went through the big hailstorm and lost a tree in the ice storm. Remember those? I guess this is just God letting us know who’s still in charge,” he said.

Brown and several family members watched in horror Tuesday morning as floodwaters filled the escape space of an egress window on the south wall of his basement. Before they knew it, the water rose 3 feet, the glass shattered and water gushed into his basement.

In just a few minutes the water was almost 9 feet high — barely inches from the basement ceiling.

Wednesday afternoon, friends and family were carrying furniture and other belongings from Brown’s sopping basement to the curb while sump pumps removed all but about an inch of the water.

Outer layers of drywall were beginning to sag in the basement.

Larry Brown

Larry Brown and daughter Hope lug waterlogged furniture and belongings from Larry’s flooded basement. Among the belongings he recovered was his “Man Cave” sign.

Next door, Brown’s neighbors, Ashley and Wade Bower, also were pumping water from their basement. One of their three daughters, Olivia, 4½ , was happy when she retrieved one of her favorite dolls as the basement’s contents were lugged to the curb.

Next step for the Browns and Bowers, said their landlord Danny Starostka, will be to remove all flooring and saturated drywall and insulation.

If those materials aren’t quickly removed, mold will form and ruin the house, he said with the certainty of someone who has dried out his share of flooded basements.

Starostka owns several houses in the 1200 block of Avenue F and was busy Tuesday removing water, assessing damage and preparing for repairs.

In the basement of Starostka’s duplex at Avenue F and 11th Street, water had risen several inches. He already had sawed off and removed a slab of drywall about 12 inches high. Taking away the drywall exposed insulation and the wood framing of the house.

All the remaining components — wood framing, concrete foundation and insulation — must be dry before repairs are made. Proceeding too quickly would trap moisture behind the drywall and invite a mold infestation, he said.

Larry Brown

Larry Brown reaches for the residue on the basement wall that shows how high floodwater rose in his southeast Kearney home. Initially, water filled the egress window behind him. When the glass broke, water came gushing in.

Across Avenue F, Gabriel Butolph of Omaha stood beside his red H20 Pros van, waiting for its on-board pumps to finish emptying water from a basement.

“When we realized what an issue Kearney had with flooding, we came,” Butolph said.

He said he has worked in flood recovery in many states. So far the worst he’s seen is the Fremont flood this spring that occurred when a levy failed.

Butolph said returning to normal would take time, and he advised seeking Uncle Sam’s financial help through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Manage the issues as they come along. If there’s standing water remove it,” he said. “Look at FEMA. Fill out their paperwork. If they accept your claim and give you money, but it’s not enough, you still have the right to appeal.”

Back across the street, Brown carried more items from his basement, including a wood sign he recovered from the room that was his hangout. The sign read, “Man Cave.”

“I’m just happy the flood didn’t come at night, when there might have been people sleeping down there,” he said.

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