GALVESTON, Texas (11/15/12)--Coastal Community CU in Galveston, Texas, understands what credit unions in the Northeast are going through as they rebuild from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, said President/CEO Carol Gaylord Purdy. The $43.5 million asset credit union was all but destroyed when Hurricane Ike struck Southeast Texas in 2008.
Hurricane Ike was reported to be the third-costliest hurricane ever to make landfall in the U.S., and Hurricane Sandy is expected to be one of the top 10 costliest hurricanes on record in the U.S (LoneStar Leaguer Nov. 14).
Sandy made landfall at 8 p.m. Oct. 29 near Atlantic City, N.J., packing 80-mile-per-hour winds and causing massive flooding along the state's shoreline and in New York City. More than 7.9 million homes and businesses were without power, from North Carolina to Maine.
Hurricane Sandy's impact on the economy may result in $10 billion to $20 billion in total economic damages and $5 billion to $10 billion in insured losses, according to early estimates from catastrophe-risk modeling company Eqecat (News Now Nov. 1). Since then, estimates have gone up to $60 billion.
In Hurricane Ike, Coastal Community's main office took in eight feet of flood water from the Galveston Ship Channel, Purdy told the Texas Credit Union League. The credit union's 69th Street branch received four feet from the Gulf of Mexico. Also, the wind caused extensive roof and air conditioner damage. In total, Purdy says Hurricane Ike caused half a million dollars in damage for the credit union. For six months, the credit union's main office was closed for repairs.
Despite the damage, the credit union was there for its members. Within one week of Hurricane Ike destroying the Coastal Community CU's main branch, Purdy set up shop at the San Luis Hotel.
Galveston residents were not allowed to return to the island for two weeks, Purdy remembered.
"We received police escorts to the island each day to bring tellers and cash to the San Luis each day and served everyone regardless of membership," Purdy said. "Cash was the only tender and we were the only fully operational financial institution on the island."
Purdy said this allowed her to begin the clean-up and get the disaster-recovery unit ready for its grand opening before the residents returned.
"Our disaster-recovery trailer was the first trailer on the island (before the red tape)," Purdy said. She noted the credit union opened 100 new accounts from its disaster recovery trailer within a month and assets grew $10 million within three months.
For those credit unions that were in the path of Hurricane Sandy, Purdy says, "I truly believe that the best in people comes out in the worst of times."
To help breathe life back into their branch, Purdy recommends bringing in lots of plants. She also suggests that credit unions celebrate and reward staff for their hard work during difficult times.
"You have to rebuild lives before you rebuild buildings," says Purdy. "The credit union is not a building; it's a family."