Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Few CUs report damages in Gustav

MADISON, Wis. (9/3/08)--Some credit unions sustained minor damages from Hurricane Gustav, but no major losses have been reported yet, according to CUNA Mutual Group.

Gustav made landfall about 70 miles west of New Orleans. The Category 2 hurricane was responsible for 7 deaths in the U.S. and prompted a massive evacuation in Louisiana ( Sept. 2).

The CUNA Mutual Credit Union Protection Claims staff is monitoring policyholders in the New Orleans area and southern Mississippi and is not expecting reports of major wind-related damage. Flooding will likely occur along the path of Hurricane Gustav, Phil Tschudy, CUNA Mutual Group media relations manager, told News Now.

"Evacuation losses have prevented some credit unions from getting back to their buildings, but we remain cautiously optimistic that damage to these credit unions will be minor," he said. "Once evacuation orders have been lifted, CUNA Mutual will contact policyholders and will have claim adjusters in the area as needed."

Many credit unions are now open in Mississippi, but they're "operating on skeleton crews," Charles Elliott, Mississippi Credit Union Association, told News Now.

Three credit unions in Mississippi were closed Tuesday--two because of limited staff. Many credit union employees evacuated the area and haven't returned yet, he said. "Many employees evacuated, and hopefully they'll get back today," Elliott said Tuesday.

He also noted that there are power outages in the state.

Keesler FCU, Biloxi, was open Tuesday except for the Stennis branch. The branch was closed because the building in which it is located was closed. Some Keesler branches had limited drive-up service available, the credit union said on its website.

No damages to credit unions have been reported to the association. Access to some areas is still limited due to storm debris and flooding, but most credit unions have provided initial condition reports, with many reporting they were open today, the association said.

"We were prepared for the worst and hoping for the best," Elliott said.

The association is working with the Louisiana Credit Union League on shared branching to help some credit unions that are offline, Elliott added.

The Alabama Credit Union League has been in contact with its credit unions, and there is no reported damage, Adena Whitman Zamora, league director of public and political affairs, told News Now.

"Everyone is doing well," she said. "[The league] is on standby to help where we can."

The league also will help its credit unions prepare for upcoming storms, she added.

Although there were mandatory evacuations for Hardin, Orange and Jefferson Counties, the Texas coastline was spared, according to the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL). No credit unions reported any damage to TCUL, and the league is continuing to follow up with them.

"It looks like our credit unions are in good shape," said Linda Webb-Manon, league communications director, told News Now.

Mobiloil FCU, Beaumont, Texas, was closed Tuesday to prepare for Gustav. Credit union members were able to perform financial transactions at 3,400 CU Service Centers nationwide, including 205 in Texas, the credit union said in a release.

New Orleans was spared from the storm, and Baton Rouge was hit harder than anticipated. Credit unions were not able to open Tuesday because the city was evacuated.

The Louisiana Credit Union League has contacted its credit unions and is staying in touch through text messaging. Phones are working sporadically. The disaster plan and shared branching for credit unions worked well, the league said.

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