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More CUs close as Fay gains strength
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (8/20/08)--More credit unions closed Tuesday as Tropical Storm Fay hit southwest Florida and traveled northeast across the state, gathering strength and spawning at least seven tornadoes. Fay was expected to become a hurricane off the coast of Daytona Beach sometime today and be at hurricane strength when it swings back over Florida again Thursday. Georgia is also under a hurricane watch (Orlando Aug. 19). More than 93,000 Florida Power & Light customers were without power in 20 counties. About one-third of the outages were in Collier County, where Fay came ashore at 5 a.m. Tuesday near Cape Romano, just south of Naples ( Aug. 19). As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, eight credit unions were in contact with the Florida Credit Union League, according to the league's website. Lee County Mosquito Control CU, a $424,483 asset credit union in Fort Myers, closed Tuesday and indicated it would open during normal hours today, "pending weather." Lee County Postal Employees CU, a $3.9 million asset credit union, also based in Fort Myers, also said it would be closed Tuesday and open on normal hours today. Community Educators CU, a $300 million asset credit union based in Rockledge, said its Palm Bay branch remained open but all other branches closed at noon Tuesday. They planned to reopen today. Sarasota Coastal CU, with $235 million asset credit union and based in Sarasota, was closed Tuesday morning but said it might be open Tuesday afternoon. All branches at these credit unions were closed until further notice: Power Financial CU, Pembroke Pines, with $455 million assets; JetStream FCU, Miami Lakes, $99.5 million assets; Tropical Financial CU, Pembroke Pines, $721.7 million assets; and Priority One CU, Sunrise, $73.3 million assets. Priority One also said its call center would be closed. However, these credit unions' reports were before the storm began strengthening. News reports said the storm's maximum sustained winds remained at 65 mph, with higher gusts. (A hurricane has winds of at least 74 mph.) A storm tracker in Moore Haven, near Lake Okeechobee, reported winds of up to 81 mph ( Aug. 19). Residents and businesses, including credit unions, were preparing for flooding generated by 10 to 15 inches of rain. One vendor, Herndon, Va.-based DigitalMailer, helped a credit union in Key West get an update to its members quickly with information on accessing their funds, branch closures and plans for the credit union's contingency operations. DigitalMailer staff created an emergency e-mail alert and distributed it to more than 3,000 members of Key FCU within minutes, said the e-mail marketing firm. "You prepare for situations like these, but when an emergency hits, there's a million things a credit union needs to take care of," said Ron Daly, president/CEO of DigitalMailer. The company's Crisis Management Notification System is an e-mail alert and text-messaging tool that distributes messages to members and employees for disaster planning and training. It replaces manual disaster-planning phone trees and paging systems. "In an emergency, traditional communication methods may not be accessible or reliable," said Daly. "But with e-mail and text, members can access messages on their laptops or mobile phones. It doesn't negate the need for recording phone messages or posting website notices, but it certainly enhances the effectiveness of communications and gets the word out quickly," he added.
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