KEARNEY — July was budgeted as a $3 million month for Younes Hospitality.
August was going to be $2.7 million, but achieving those numbers likely is impossible.
In fact, there could be significantly reduced income for several months at his south Kearney hotels, owner Paul Younes said Sunday as he waded across parking lot after parking lot still covered with floodwater.
“To see 2, 3 and 4 feet of water, I never could have imagined,” Younes said.
Although many flooded properties around Kearney have drained and are drying out, that’s not so with the Younes Complex.
Floodwaters aren’t receding at a rate that’s comparable to the rest of Kearney. The water still encircles most of Younes’ hotels, his huge conference center and convention centers, eateries and other businesses.
His Holiday Inn Express and Angus Burgers & Shakes have reopened.
Water that was 3- to 4-feet deep after Tuesday’s flood didn’t appear to be going anywhere Sunday, Younes said as he waded carefully through the parking lot close to Cunningham’s by the Lake.
Sunday afternoon the city of Kearney used three pumps to remove some of the water. It dropped about 6 inches overnight, Younes said. A fourth pump will be put into action today, he said.
Water in the lot east of the restaurant touched the bottom of his shorts on Sunday.
It still was almost 2 feet deep. And, Younes said, as long as the water covers his parking lots, there can be no electrical power to his buildings.
It takes energy to recover from the flood, but the power will stay off and recovery will be delayed until the water is gone.
Younes said his businesses are insured to varying degrees, but none has coverage for business interruption. “Some businesses have insurance, but it doesn’t cover all the physical losses. Holiday Inn has no insurance at all.”
There are 200 first-floor, flood-damaged rooms in the Younes Complex. That leaves 440 rooms that are undamaged on second- third- and fourth-floors, but without first floor services — check-in desks, laundries, kitchens and other support services — the 440 undamaged rooms are unusable.
Other Kearney hotels have rooms that are out of commission. Of the 1,800 sleeping rooms in Kearney, only 600 or so are usable.
On Sunday morning Younes was talking with one of the supervisors from the five recovery companies who are working in his Younes Complex. Decisions were needed about what to keep — metal and plastic items — and what to toss — anything that can hold moisture and breed mold. Each hotel had its own piles of carpet and other things that will be taken to the landfill.
His hotel employees had Sunday off for rest, but today 150 to 180 likely will be adding to the piles of items destined for the landfill. Younes said he intends to keep as many people as he can employed as they help with the recovery.
A tall stack of plastic bags filled with bed linens and washable items accumulated Sunday near the main entrance of the Holiday Inn.
Linda Younes, wife of the owner, said the washable items were being sent to be laundered in Younes properties in nearby cities.
Younes was splitting his time between recovery decisions and water removal ideas. He said engineers have suggested ideas that could lower water on his parking lots by about one foot per day, but he doesn’t want drainage from his property to harm other properties near his hotel and business complex.
“I don’t want anyone else to feel the pain,” he said.
Linda said the flood has created many headaches and much stress, but it’s brought out the good in a lot of people. Younes always has fed his hotel employees, but because kitchens are out of commission, some Kearney organizations and individuals have taken it upon themselves and voluntarily brought food so hotel employees can eat.
“They’re saying, ‘Give me a number, I’m coming with the food,’” Linda said.
Paul credited Kearney City Hall for its response. “I want to thank City Manager Mike Morgan, Mayor Stan Clouse, Assistant city Manager Eric Hellriegel and the Kearney fire department. They all have been fantastic, and so has Nebraska Public Power District.”
Younes came to the United States from Israel in 1972. Five years later he and Linda married and he began building his hotels.
“It’s been 47 beautiful years, but except for deaths in my family, this flood has been the most difficult thing I’ve been through,” he said.
Linda said seeing the hotels torn apart and surrounded by water “feels like a death.”