When Lonnie Tourek left his business, Tourek Quilting, to deliver items to customers in Omaha around 4 p.m. March 13, he saw the Bell Creek had reached its top.

He wasn't too worried, though, because it was something he'd seen happen before.

"Like in year's past, I thought it was going to come up and go into (Verdel) Gnuse's field again," Tourek said Tuesday.

So, after making their deliveries in Omaha, he and his wife stopped to get groceries and then headed back to Arlington.

He soon learned that a lot had transpired in the three hours he was away.

"The highway was closed and the state guy told me there was 4 to 5 inches of water in my building already," Tourek said.

At 6:31 p.m., officials with the Washington County Sheriff's Office posted on Twitter that they were aware of the large amount of water flow on U.S. Highway 30 and First Street, where Tourek's business is located, and said the Nebraska Department of Transportation was monitoring the situation. Drivers were advised not to drive through the area.

Five minutes later, the highway was closed as the water kept coming.

"I just couldn't believe it," Tourek said of how fast the water came. "I've been here 35 years and never had water in my building. It was just one of those floods."

In the aftermath of the flooding, other Arlington business people have agreed with Tourek, saying they have never experienced a situation like the recent flooding.

Across the highway at Countryside Repair, Chuck Burris wasn't taking any chances. With the help of friends, customers and strangers, he started getting as much of the items in his shop off the floor as he could when word of possible flooding came.

"It was awesome to see everybody come together to help out," Burris said.

While he prepared for the worst, Burris never expected to see what he did later that evening and the next day.

"I had doubted it was ever going to get here," he said. "I've never had water reach my building before."

Tourek and Burris weren't alone in their assessment of last month's flood, which also damaged 31 homes in Arlington.

Across Arlington, residents and business owners are still in disbelief about how fast the water rose.

But, just as fast as it rose, the water also went down. By March 15, the Bell Creek had receded, but across town, floodwaters were once again wrecking havoc as the Elkhorn River flowed out of its banks into the Washington County Fairgrounds and other areas south of Highway 30.

Storage units hardest hit

Among the hardest hit businesses in the area was the Arlington Self Storage units south of Casey's General Store along Highway 30.

Jane and Larry Rogers are owners of the storage units.

Jane Rogers said, originally, she thought the storage units would be safe, but as with the Bell Creek, water from the Elkhorn River rose quickly.

"I never, in my lifetime, thought I'd see flooding from the north," said Rogers, who's lived in Arlington about 30 years. "It came across the highway into the field west of us and then came across County Road 9 and made a huge hole in our driveway," she said.

In the end, most of the buildings on the property had at least 18 inches of water in them. In all, 65 of the 80 units sustained damage, with many customers experiencing a total loss of the items they had stored in the units, Rogers said.

One building on the property escaped damage, however, thanks to new FEMA regulations instituted after the 2011 flood. Constructed in 2014, the building had to be built 4-feet higher than the other buildings, Rogers said. The Rogers' storage units on the east edge of Arlington were not damaged.

Business owner feels fortunate

At Rich's Welding, owner Rich Mortensen said he's blessed not to have sustained much damage. His building took on about a foot-and-a-half of water, but much of the equipment, after a thorough cleaning and a few sprays of WD-40, is working.

"I feel fortunate that it's not worse," Mortensen said.

After self evacuating to his home in Fremont as floodwaters from the Elkhorn River began covering the fairgrounds and areas south, Mortensen had to drive home via Dodge Street in Omaha after state Highway 36 and Maple Street in Omaha were closed.

The water, he said, was already high on Dodge Street as he made his way to U.S. Highway 275 toward Fremont.

"There was about 8 to 9 inches of water there and after I went through, they had closed it," he said.

He spent the next four days watching reports from Fremont, unable to make it back to Arlington after all major roadways out of Fremont were closed.

"It was frustrating," Mortensen said.

Though concerned about his business and the surrounding area, Mortensen was also worried about his dog, Heidi. The German shepherd had to be left inside the shop because access to the area was cut off. Though he prepared for the worst, with the help of a friend who was able to access the shop a few days later, Mortensen learned that Heidi was fine.

Seeing how others had lost their homes and other belongings, Mortensen stressed again how fortunate he felt.

"The only thing I lost is my time," he said.

Businesses adjusting to highway closure

While their stores didn't suffer damage, Jeff Ellis, owner of the Quik Pik Shell Station, and Jared Hales, store manager for Casey's General Store, have seen a shift in some aspects their businesses.

With the closure of Highway 30, both said they have lost some gas sales. But, they've also seen sales in other areas increase.

Early on, essential items at Quik Pik were scooped up by residents.

"That first weekend, we were cleaned out of milk, bread, water and beer," Ellis said. "But, things have gotten back to normal."

Other than gas sales, Hales said the highway's closure hasn't had much of an affect on business.

"The people of Arlington have been our main support and that hasn't changed," he said.

But, with grocery stores in Fremont, where many Arlington residents shop, not as easily accessible, Hales said he's tried to keep more milk, bread and grocery items on hand in recent weeks for customers.

Like Mortensen, Hales had to get reports about the flooding from others as he was in Fremont. Though he was away from the store for a week, he credits his staff for helping keep business going after it was closed for a couple of days.

"It was frustrating," he said."In management, your store needs you and you can't do anything about it, but I have an amazing staff that stepped up to the plate and took care of business while I was out."

In the aftermath of the flooding, some business owners have had to adjust some because of the closure of highways 30 and 91.

Burris said he typically gets parts from stores in Fremont, but now has them coming from Omaha and Blair.

At Gnuse Manufacturing at Highway 30 and First Street, which stayed dry, Trevor Gnuse said the challenge has been explaining to truck drivers that, while their GPS may say the highway is closed east of Arlington, they are still able to use it to get into town.

"It's a minor inconvenience when looking at everything else,” Gnuse said.

Clean up continues

The clean up effort across Arlington continues. At the storage units, Rogers said, some customers have come to assess their belongings, but others have yet to check in. Rogers said she and her husband have cleaned out those that have been emptied, a process that took about three or four attempts.

Rogers said there was no structural damage to the buildings.

"There's no plumbing or electricity down there, so most of what we have to be concerned about is the plywood walls," she said. "They are drying well, but we'd like to treat them so we don't get mold."

She hopes to have the units cleaned and back up and running soon.

Mortensen is back at his welding shop and ready to begin his 44th year in business in June. Burris said he was back at work March 18.

"I was a lot more fortunate that some," Burris said. "All we had to do after the water receded was get the mud out and rinse her clean and we were good to go."

Though his parking lot was filled with trucks and other vehicles working on the nearby railroad early on, they have since moved on and Tourek's business is getting back to normal as some repairs are being made to the building. He said there was some drywall damage in their front showroom and the office area and some doors were warped.

"We are in the final stages of getting things done and cleaned up, Tourek said. "It will probably be another day or two."

Tourek echoed the sentiments of Mortensen and Burris when he looks at the damage his business had.

"I feel lucky compared to some of the other stories they have had on the news and the pictures they have been showing," he said. "It's devastating seeing what others have dealt with."

Small Business Administration disaster loans

While residential property owners may be able to get assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, business owners, such as Tourek and Rogers, have been referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in looking for assistance.

According to a fact sheet issued by the SBA, businesses located in a declared disaster area may be eligible for financial assistance in the form of disaster loans.

The types of disaster loans include:

• Business Physical Disaster Loans — Loans to businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property owned by the business, including real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment. Businesses of any size are eligible. Private, non-profit organizations such as charities, churches, private universities, etc., are also eligible.

• Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) — Working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. These loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period.

• Home Disaster Loans — Loans to homeowners or renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate and personal property, including automobiles.

To learn more about these loans, visit disasterloan.sba.gov or call 800-659-2955.

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