Monday, September 22, 2008

Donations pour in, Texas takes stock of Ike damages

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/19/08)--Houston area credit unions are still assessing damages, credit unions are donating funds for disaster relief, those in the ATM industry are reporting their business continuity plans worked, and all are anxious for the power and utilities knocked out by Hurricane Ike to return to the grid.

Of the 177 credit unions affected by Hurricane Ike last weekend, 12 still were not operational at the close of the business day Wednesday, said the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

The Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) reported Thursday that to date, it had received about $65,000 in its Disaster Relief Fund.

Of that amount, $25,000 was donated Wednesday by Southwest Corporate FCU, which is headquartered in Plano, Texas. "We are proud to be part of this caring and supportive credit union community, and we hope and pray for a quick recovery for everyone affected," said Southwest Corporate President/CEO John Cassidy.

The amounts collected do not include pledges, which are expected to flow in the next several days, said TCUF. Already TCUF has issued more than $32,000 in grants to credit union employees in the affected area to help begin rebuilding.

Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler and a small contingency of the league team will visit the affected areas next Wednesday through Friday, said the league.

"It is through the commitment and dedication of credit union employees and volunteers that the majority of the 180 credit unions in the affected area are at least partially--if not fully--operational today, less than one week after Hurricane Ike ravaged numerous communities in Southeast Texas," Ensweiler said Thursday.

"They have put their personal hardships aside so that they can be there for their members, who themselves have suffered great losses. Now it's our turn--we must be there for them in this time of great need," he said.

The league posted a video message from Ensweiler on its website at

Jill Pharr, executive director of the foundation, noted donations increase by the hour, but so do the requests for emergency grants.

"As more and more people are finally able to return to their homes and assess the damage, we anticipate a much greater need for emergency grants," Pharr said.

Credit unions in Texas can donate directly to the TCUF Disaster Relief Fund. Those in other states can donate through the National Credit Union Foundation's CUAid. See the link for details.

Two Houston-based electronic funds transfer networks--Pulse and Cardtronics--said they experienced little disruption in business operations from Ike, thanks largely to their business continuity plans (ATM & Debit News Sept. 18).

Their plans included transferring key operations and personnel to cities further inland.

Cardtronics moved its key operations and personnel to Dallas and Portland, Ore. Its Houston headquarters was not damaged and the company planned to move back to Houston this week.

Pulse, which processes transactions for 4,500 banks and credit unions, switched its processing to its Dallas facility. The company did not know whether its leased facility in Houston was damaged.

The hurricane disabled 327 ATMs owned and operated by Cardtronics in the Houston and Galveston areas. The machines were down largely due to electrical outages and downed communications lines. The company expects the ATMs to return to service soon.

According to a league update Thursday morning, all of downtown Houston and areas harder hit on the east side of Houston, such as LaPorte, Pasadena, Baytown and Galveston, likely will see power restored sometime after Sept. 22.

"Some areas are so significantly hit that power restoration to existing structures may still be several weeks off," said Rick Grady, vice president of marketing, public relations and communications at the league. Entergy, which supplies electricity to the eastern part of the state, indicated that restoration would be near completion by Oct. 6. However, the Bolivar Peninsula, Sabine Pass, and portions of Port Arthur are still flooded and there is not estimation on completion time for those locations, Grady said.

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