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Marriott Lincolnshire recovers from severe flooding

The farm resort thwas flooded. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

The farm at the resort that was flooded. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 3, 2013 6:25AM

LINCOLNSHIRE — After the worst flooding in its history, one of Lincolnshire’s focal economic engines is fully operational again.

The 18-hole golf course at the Lincolnshire Marriott Resort reopened May 1, two weeks after the Des Plaines River and the creek that runs through the property burst their banks and nearly entered some of the buildings. Ghassan Nahle, Marriott’s director of operations, has seen worse weather — three hurricanes while working in Orlando — but said neither he nor the property had seen flooding like the storm of April 18.

“In 35 years, we’ve never had that flooding, ever,” he said Monday while walking the grounds, pointing out which parking lots had been underwater and how close the creek came to certain doors. “It was like three feet away.”

With general manager Hassan El Neklawy in Europe, on a vacation he scheduled for what is usually the resort’s quiet time of year, Nahle and his crew of 14 groundskeepers and engineers handled evacuation and damage control.

By the afternoon of April 18, after nearly 24 hours of heavy rain, the stormwater retention pond they call Lake Marriott hit its capacity; its edge crept up to the base of the transformers that power the entire resort. Those transformers started to smoke, so Nahle and his crew shut them down, cutting off electricity to 150 guests and the staff.

He brought in the largest moving van he could find, and shipped customers over to neighboring hotels, mostly the Springhill Suites, another Marriott property just across Milwaukee Avenue.

“We were trucking 30 people at a time,” he said.

But the resort also has a springtime population of approximately 2 million…honeybees, living in a farm opened two years ago just south of the theater. With hives built on higher ground, Nahle said the water never got close to them.

His staff started sandbagging everything, but the rising stopped short of the barricades. He credited the landscape layout and his crew’s efforts, which will require a lot of overtime payments, with getting the grounds operable again; the hotel reopened April 21.

“We’ve got a great crew, they turned it around very quickly,” he said. “The point is to get it done.”

The links had opened on April 15; Nahle said he had no estimates yet for how much the flood expenses or lost revenues would be. As he patrolled the property, though, the grass was green and damp from the morning dew — he said that spending a few days underwater, cut off from sunlight and oxygen, did little damage so early in the season.

“It’s better to have the flooding now, versus June,” he said.

In the same way, he said it was better for the flooding to come on a Thursday, when many business travelers are checking out and the weekend crowd has not arrived.

“Luckily, it wasn’t Wednesday or Tuesday,” he said.

Nahle said he had managed hotels through extreme weather before, while working at a Renaissance in Orlando in the 2000s. But even with that experience, what he saw in April was unlike anything he had worked through before.

“It was tough, unusual.”

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