KEARNEY — Kearney tow companies are working around the clock to haul vehicles that were destroyed by floodwaters earlier this week.
Kearney City Manager Mike Morgan said that as of last night several hundred vehicles were stranded in hotel parking lots in south Kearney.
Today, Turner Body Shop and Kearney Towing & Repair Center owners said water has receded enough to tow vehicles from that area that was covered in several feet of water.
“The ones that weren’t submerged we could get to, but if they were submerged, it’s just a wait game until the water goes down,” said Tony Turner, Turner Body Shop co-owner.
Turner Body Shop, which operates three tow trucks, has towed about 25 vehicles in the Kearney area since the flood, he said.
Kearney Towing & Repair Center operates 13 tow trucks and has towed 220 vehicles in the Kearney area within that same time frame, according to owner Gary Behlmann.
Earlier this week, Behlmann said they towed vehicles near the Wood River north of Kearney and from the truck stop at Odessa where motorists were stranded Tuesday morning. Turner said they also received a few calls from people whose vehicles got stuck in mud or slid into ditches off of gravel roads.
Kearney Towing & Repair Center was able to reach vehicles at the south Kearney hotels beginning yesterday.
“We were there yesterday pretty much all day,” Behlmann said. “We had three trucks in and out of there today.”
Both tow companies have been on-call 24 hours a day. Though, Behlmann’s trucks say, “23 ½ hour Towing.”
“Well, we’ve got to stop for lunch,” Behlmann quipped.
Behlmann wasn’t sure how many more days his drivers would tow vehicles from the hotel lots. As of Friday afternoon, he said vehicles parked behind the Younes Convention Center still are flooded to their hoods. They won’t tow those vehicles until excess water from the lake is pumped by the city into the Kearney Canal.
He and Turner said most vehicles at the Kearney hotel parking lots are total losses.
“(It) just caused so much damage sitting in the water like that,” Turner said.
According to Behlmann, high floodwater wreaks havoc on the computers in newer vehicles.
“The bigger problem is the electronics in the new cars. The computers and stuff are down on the floorboard and stuff,” he said.
One car’s computer shorted-out, which popped the trunk and rolled down the windows before Kearney Towing & Repair arrived to the parking lot, Behlmann said.
Behlmann compared new cars with electrical panels to cellphones. When you drop a cellphone in water it shorts out electrical circuits, too. But Behlmann said, “You can’t put a whole car in a bag of rice.”
Often, tow truck drivers know a car is totaled before even reaching it, according to Behlmann.
“You can spot them when you pull into the parking lot. The windows are all fogged up,” he said. “You open the door, it’s a gross smell.”
The next stop for the flooded vehicles is a repair shop, Turner and Behlmann said, where insurance companies will decide whether the vehicles should be repaired. If the insurance companies agree that the vehicles are total losses, salvage companies pick up the vehicles.
Drivers won’t have to wait long on the tow trucks, but Turner said, “The wait is going to be on the insurance companies.”