CUs, Members Forced To Leave Town As Record Flood Surges

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MINOT, N.D.-As record floodwaters flowed this city's way, CUs last week were heading to higher ground and helping employees and members find temporary housing.

The real issue affecting credit unions from the flood-despite one CU likely to lose its building-is the turmoil created from the evacuation of 11,000 townspeople, about 25% of Minot's population, noted Jeff Olson, VP of advocacy and awareness for the Mid-America CU Association in Bismarck, N.D.

"There are a couple evacuation centers in Minot attempting to alleviate the problem of residents trying to find motels, hotels, or room with family or friends," Olson said. "There is one site set up at the local college armory and athletic facilities, and at some of the schools outside the flood area."

The league has established an Emergency Needs Fund for displaced credit union staff and family so they can find places to stay in Bismarck, located 100 miles south of Minot. "The housing situation in Minot is very tight," Olson stated.

There is good reason for the large population displacement, as the release of water from the Lake Darling Dam and more water coming behind it from Canada are expected to swell the Souris River well over Minot's levees, to nine feet above the 1969 flood that set a record above the city's all-time record flood of 1881.

Skeleton Crews & Relocations

Olson said many of the credit unions were working with skeleton crews, allowing employees time off to evacuate and relocate. One such employee is Cassia Dahl, CEO of G.E.M. FCU, who may lose her home due to the expected high flood waters. Stacey Wald, G.E.M. VP, told Credit Union Journal that said she and other employees were leaving to help the CEO move. "Cassia's home is right in the flood plain."

Also in the flood plain is the $16-million G.E.M.'s one office, which the CEO told the league she expects will be lost to high waters. Wald said the building has been gutted of all essential items, furnishings, and equipment. She told the Journal the credit union is taking a wait-and-see approach as to whether they will have to rebuild.

"We will just have to see how much damage there will be," she said at press time, a few hours before the flood waters were expected.

Meanwhile, G.E.M. set up at nearby Ascentia FCU in Minot and was conducting business out of two teller windows. Some of G.E.M.'s non-essential items, such as furniture, were moved to neighboring Prairie FCU. Wald said the credit union is not certain how long they will be in the temporary setting, and said if they have to be out of their building for an extended period of time, or need to rebuild, they will likely relocate to Prairie, which has more room.

Eight credit unions are located within Minot, and the league said six are on high ground and expect no flood damage. Minot Area Schools FCU is located within the city's school administration building that has been surrounded with a dirt levee. "That credit union is safe and operations are running," Olson reported.

But there will be disruption, not a shutdown, in financial business in this town due primarily to financial institutions being short-staffed as people shuffle around, noted Olson, who pointed out that even the city of Bismarck, where the league is helping some Minot residents relocate to, is battling Missouri River floodwaters. "It's a mess out here."

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