NEW ORLEANS and BATON ROUGE, La. (9/5/08)--Power outages in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and surrounding areas in Louisiana are affecting credit unions, as residents begin returning to the cities evacuated before Hurricane Gustav. The Louisiana Credit Union League announced it had rescheduled two educational programs because of the outages. The league has rescheduled two of its educational programs because of power outages in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The FACT Act Identity Theft Red Flag Guidelines has been rescheduled for Sept. 22. Opening Share Accounts has been rescheduled for Oct. 9 and Oct 10. The league plans to send out an additional updates to those who registered for the programs. Many credit unions were serving their members through online transactions although some branches were closed, according to credit unions News Now
contacted. It attempted to contact credit unions in Houma, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge. A branch of Denham Springs-based LA DOTD FCU in Baton Rouge had some wind damage and has no power, so it is closed, according to Cary Anderson, CEO, and Michele Merle Lacour, vice president of growth services. "We were operating Tuesday and Wednesday because we put in redundant systems," said Anderson. "We made sure we had everyone's addresses and contact information so we wouldn't lose anyone." LaCour explained that the credit union lost contact with one or two employees during Hurricane Rita. "This time we knew where everyone was." Anderson noted members from other credit unions started arriving at LA DOTD FCU's Service Center Wednesday. Some of their credit unions' systems were down, which meant the members--and the service center--couldn't access the accounts. "Ours was working because we are part of Harland Ultradata Service Bureau, which is based in Des Moines, Iowa," Anderson said. LaCour said the credit union was able to provide nonmember services such as check cashing, purchase of gift cards, and credit card advances. A lot of members have wind damage to roofs and trees down, they said. "Fifty percent of Baton Rouge should have power in about eight days, and the other half will get it in three to four weeks," Anderson said, adding that Lafourche Parish won't get power for six weeks. He noted that people planned better for this hurricane. "This week was the month-end, when we take a look at the shares. From Friday noon to Saturday closing time, members withdrew $1 million--that's more than they take out in a month," he said. LaCour noted the ATM out front had only $1,300 left before it was refilled Thursday. The Lake Charles office ran out of cash and had to have an emergency delivery, they said. Although Katrina is the bigger event for New Orleans, Gustav was the bigger event for Baton Rouge, said Lacour. They told News Now
there has not been a lot of flooding, although the river was about to crest. Another Baton Rouge-based credit union, La Capitol FCU, is “doing fine,” CEO Susan Leake told News Now
Thursday. The credit union’s northern Louisiana branches were open during the storm, but Southern Louisiana branches were not. Some of the branches were closed as of press time--such as those in Houma--because the city had not yet begun letting people back in. The credit union doesn’t expect any significant damages from the storm. Business was slow on Thursday. “I’m rather surprised,” Leake said. “We made a huge effort to open in Baton Rouge.” Staff and members at the Baton Rouge branch are “delighted” to be there because the credit union has electricity and air conditioning. Parts of Baton Rouge are without power, and it may be several weeks before it goes back on--which isn’t great when it’s 98 degrees, Leake noted. “We were hit very hard,” she said. Damage in Baton Rouge consists of downed trees and roof damage, but there were few deaths, she added. “We were very blessed.” The credit union’s branches that operated on Wednesday did so with “skeleton crews,” she said. La Capitol spent “a lot of time,” last week on its disaster recovery plan. The credit union reviews its plans before hurricane season every year, but made an effort to ensure the execution of it was completed by close of business on Friday. Some staff members grumbled because the storm wasn’t expected to hit until after Labor Day, but “I didn’t feel comfortable waiting until next week,” Leake said. “We have a lot less work after the storm.” The credit union also loaded its ATMs with cash before the storm, and the “activity was ahead of it,” she added. The status of many credit unions is still unknown. Communications is spotty or non-existent in some areas. According to information on credit unions’ websites:
* Campus FCU, Baton Rouge, was closed Thursday; * Coast Guard Employees CU, New Orleans, will not process loans until further notice. The credit union asked its members not to come to the credit union unless necessary. Coast Guard’s remote site is intact and will run on limited operations. The main office was expected to be open Thursday for a few hours to handle phone calls; * CUSA FCU, Covington, closed Thursday; * Michoud CU, New Orleans, was closed through Friday; * New Orleans Firemen’s CU opened the Picayune ranch Thursday and confirmed that other locations would open Friday if the buildings had water and electricity; * Noda CU, New Orleans, will be closed until Monday; and * University of New Orleans CU will re-open Monday.
Credit unions, like others in the area, are dealing with basics. According to LA DOT FCU's Anderson and Lacour, the big issue for residents is gas and ice. Anderson's wife was in line for two hours for five gallons of gas, he said. "The gas stations have gas but they don't have the power to pump it." The credit union has provided a credit union day care center for employees because schools are out this week. It is entertaining about five or six children with movies in the training room, and it paid them to help pick up the storm's debris out front. It's hot and sticky. Hot showers are nonexistent. But the credit union knows its focus. It is still "just trying to take care of our employees and our members," said Anderson.