Zac Denton’s Road to Recovery, part II

Fremont County Emergency Management took this photo of the Sapp Brothers Travel Center west of the Highway 2/Interstate 29 junction back on April 6th. (Percival) — It’s been a bittersweet year so far for Zac Denton.

The Nebraska City man received a new kidney in February, only to lose his workplace to massive flooding in March. In part two of a two-part series of reports, Zac recalls the hours leading up to flooding hitting his business, and the rebuilding efforts underway.

On Friday, March 15th, Zac Denton was at home recovering from his successful kidney transplant surgery that took place three weeks earlier, when he received an alarming phone call from an employee at the Sapp Brothers Travel Center in Percival, which Denton manages. 300×250 image ad "I got a phone call about 6 in the morning from one of my restaurant managers," said Denton, "stating that the Fremont County Sheriff had already been there, saying that Highway 2 would probably be flooded sometime that day. They were suggesting at that time that we should probably close doors, and begin the evacuation process."

That evacuation suggestion became mandatory a few hours later.

"At about 8 o’clock, it became pretty apparent that we would be evacuating the premises that day," he said. "So, yeah, I spent pretty much all day on the phone, between talking to employees and coordinating things with the corporate office. By 4:30 p.m., our employees were completely out of the location, and had done everything they could to get product off of the floor, and take it upstairs. But, there was only so much they could do in such little time."

Sapp Brothers was among the businesses inundated with water on the north side of Highway 2, west of Interstate 29.

"Water was, goodness, three-to-four feet high in most of those businesses," said Denton. "In 2011, we had weeks, if not over a month’s notice that that the flooding was going to occur. So, we were able to build berms around the business, and protect our facility. We didn’t have that opportunity this go-around. It was just a matter of capping the tanks, and getting product off the floor and taking it upstairs, hoping that we could salvage some of that stuff."

Renovation work began late last month after some of the floodwater receded. Despite considerable damage, Denton reports progress is being made.

"They removed all the equipment already, up until this point," he said. "As of last week, the tile had been completely removed. They’ve been in there for about four weeks, and removed all the drywall about five or six feet up, and replaced that, painted. As of today, we have new tiling in the entire building. A new ceiling has been installed. We’re hoping to be open within the next week or two."

Denton, however, adds that reopening the restaurant portion of Sapp Brothers will take longer. And, the entire reopening depends on when Highway 2 west of the interstate is reopened to traffic–portions of the highway were flooded again following heavy rainfall earlier this week. Sandbags have been placed around the business complex to prevent recurring flooding from slowing rebuilding efforts.

Denton, meanwhile, continues his long road to recovery following a life-saving kidney transplant. While the surgery has lifted his spirits, he’s mindful of the flooding’s impact on his business, and his employees.

"As far as my recovery, and my family," said Denton, "we’re incredibly grateful and blessed that this has all happened for us, and we’re happy that we’re now able to get on and move on with our lives in kind of a regular way, and not having to deal with me being tired, and not being able to do certain things. It’ll be great to be able to wrestle around, and goof around with my kid We’re excited for that.

"As far as the flooding, and all that concerned, we had a lot of people impacted. We had 10-to-12 people have their homes impacted, if not lose them, that work in our facility. It’s been a real struggle for a lot of people," he said.

Denton received his kidney through Nebraska Medicine’s Living Donor Team. Donors are still needed for the program. You can fill out a questionnaire by logging onto .


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