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Gulf Coast leagues CUs prepare for hurricane
MADISON, Wis. (8/28/12)--Leagues and credit unions in several Gulf Coast states were busy Monday preparing for Hurricane Isaac, set to hit landfall late tonight as a possible Category 1 hurricane on a path similar to that of Katrina in 2005. However, it is expected to deliver less punch.

Hurricane warnings for tonight range from Destin, Fla., to west Louisiana, with landfall expected near New Orleans. Leagues in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were already taking precautions as was CUNA Mutual Group, which insures many credit unions in the hurricane's projected path.

On Monday, Tropical Storm Isaac moved west of Tampa, Fla., and impacted the area mostly with rain, delaying activities at the Republican National Convention there (See related story, "RNC delays don't slow CU convention work" in today's News Now)

"We have not heard of any damage done to credit unions so far," said Mike Bridges, vice president of marketing and communications with the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU), which serves credit unions in two states along Isaac's projected path--Florida and Alabama. "We have been sending daily and sometimes twice a day e-mails to our credit unions about Isaac, its path and to make preparations early," he told News Now.

LSCU's website lists closures and includes information such as what credit unions should do before a storm hits.

Pen Air FCU, based in Pensacola, Fla., said all branches would close today at noon and all are scheduled to reopen for regular business hours on Thursday, provided there was no damage from the storm.

Tropical FCU's West Palm Beach, North Dade and Fort Lauderdale branches closed at 3 p.m. Monday and will remain closed until further notice, said the league site.

LSCU reported several closings Monday. Alabama CU's Orange Beach and Gulf Shores locations will be closed until further notice. The region is under a mandatory evacuation by the governor. Tampa Bay FCU's shared service location, Sarasota Municipal Employees CU, Pinellas FCU's Pasco office, and Grow Financial FCU's Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton branches all expected to open today.

Of particular interest is how well the New Orleans area, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina and broken levees, will fare. Much of the area is under mandatory evacuation.

"A few of our credit unions located in the Greater New Orleans and surrounding areas plan on closing Tuesday and reopening on late Wednesday or possible Thursday morning, depending on staff availability and potential damages," said Lacey Hyer, vice president of  communications and public relations at the Louisiana Credit Union League.

The league closed its office Monday and will reopen as soon as possible, Hyer told News Now. "Our office is located in the southeastern part of the state, and many mandatory evacuations have been put in place. The league decided to close so that staff could plan properly and evacuate their families. However, league staff will be working around the clock and will continue to communicate with credit unions," she added.

The Louisiana league is driving credit unions to its website, www.lcul.com, for updates, league contacts, shared branching information, disaster preparedness resources and more, she added.  "It is clear that shared branching continues to play a pivotal role in disaster preparedness for our credit unions."

A number of Louisiana credit unions have announced closures for either today and Wednesday, or closing later this afternoon and Wednesday. They include:

  • Coastland FCU;
  • Eagle FCU;
  • Fleur De Lis FCU;
  • Jefferson Financial CU;
  • GNO FCU;
  • Internal Revenue FCU;
  • LES FCU;
  • Louisiana FCU;
  • Louisiana USA FCU;
  • NAS JRB CU;
  • Neighbors FCU;
  • New Orleans Firemen's FCU;
  • Pelican State CU, Shell NO FCU; and
  • Tulane Loyola FCU.
In Mississippi, "the Mississippi Credit Union Association has been in communication with our members to exchange emergency contact information as well as learn their plans and preparation," said MSCUA President/CEO Charles Elliott.

"Mississippi credit unions are taking this storm seriously, with most coastal area credit unions already confirming plans for limited hours or closings on Tuesday and Wednesday," he told News Now Monday afternoon.  "Other credit unions in the state are being mindful of the potential for power outages, heavy rainfall and tornadic activity that could result from the storm." He noted MSCUA "will remain open and is prepared to provide or coordinate any resources our members may need."

CUNA Mutual Group also was preparing to assist credit unions with the aftermath of Isaac.  "CUNA Mutual Group has developed a comprehensive and coordinated process for responding to disasters through its Property and Casualty Disaster Claims Team, which has been activated to assist credit unions threatened by Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac," said Phil Tschudy, media relations manager at CUNA Mutual.

"Isaac is currently located in the Gulf of Mexico, just west of Tampa," he told News Now Monday afternoon. "All forecast models have this storm heading toward the Louisiana coastline, which would be first major storm in that area since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Isaac is expected to grow into a level one hurricane sometime later today and strike near or just west of New Orleans late Tuesday.  

"As a precaution, CUNA Mutual Group has contacted the state leagues and potentially affected policyholder credit unions located within 10 miles of the Louisiana/Mississippi coast," Tschudy said.

"We advised them we will continue to monitor the storm and have asked them to phone us using our toll-free emergency number (800-637-2676) if their credit union sustains any damages or if they are aware of any other credit unions that have been damaged. That number is answered live, 24/7. Once the storm passes, we will follow up with credit unions we believe may have been impacted," he said.
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