Drying out

Mattresses and wet carpet are piled in front of the Fairfield Inn & Suites in south Kearney, while chairs and other furniture are lined up on the sidewalk. There was outdoor evidence Friday afternoon of restoration work being done at all of the south Kearney hotels and conference centers owned by Paul Younes, which were inundated with floodwaters this week.

KEARNEY — The Paul Younes hotel complex in south Kearney was a beehive of activity Friday.

About 180 employees lugged furniture and waterlogged carpet from flood damaged rooms in preparation for the five restoration companies hired by Younes to get his company back on its feet.

“Where’s my office? It’s wherever I’m standing,” he said Friday as he personally directed the army of workers.

Many of the estimated 400-500 hotel rooms the flood put out of commission are part of the Younes properties.

Younes said the goal is to reopen hotels, eateries and convention and conference centers as quickly as possible.

Angus Burgers & Shakes, 421 Talmadge Road, will reopen today (Saturday). One of Younes’ hotels, Holiday Inn Express, 508 S. Second Ave., already has reopened.

“Having Angus Burgers reopen is 100 percent encouraging,” Younes said. He’s also pleased that electricity is back on at two other properties. Without power, restoration is impossible.

Although Angus Burgers is reopening in less than a week, Younes’ other properties will take longer — from three weeks to three months.

Each hotel has damage in its lobby, breakfast room, pool and some sleeping rooms.

Younes, who operates seven hotels and convention centers and conference facilities near Kearney’s main Interstate 80 interchange, listed when he expects each to return to action:

- Hampton Inn, 507 W. Talmadge Road — reopen in four to five weeks

- Fairfield Inn and Suites, 510 W. Talmadge Road — reopen in five to six weeks

- Comfort Inn, 118 Third Ave. — reopen in five to six weeks

- La Quinta Inn & Suites, 108 Third Ave. — reopen in eight to 10 weeks

- Candlewood Suites, 210 Fourth Ave. — reopen in three to four weeks

- Holiday Inn Express, 508 S. Second Ave. — reopened Wednesday

- Younes Conference Center — reopen in three to four weeks

- Holiday Inn & Convention Center, 110 Second Ave. reopen in 90 days

“Holiday Inn, that’s a monster, I haven’t been there yet,” Younes said. “We are working as hard as we can to reopen the conference center. We hope to have it 75 percent done, with no carpet, in three to four weeks.”

Many of Kearney’s hotel guests come for business and professional conferences, but they need the conference centers to conduct their meetings and other activities. The conference of Nebraska nonprofits planned in several weeks announced on Friday that because of Kearney’s floods, the conference is moving to Grand Island. The Miss Basketball sports event this weekend was canceled.

Younes said it’s been a rough week, but he’s grateful for the support he and his company have received.

Among the benefactors are Five Points Bank, which has loaned Younes its conference room, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney, which is housing 56 employees.

“People are being very kind and generous,” he said.