CUs Weather Storms, Now Helping Members

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala.-Powerful storms and tornadoes that ripped through the South last week killing at least 194 people apparently spared the majority of credit union facilities, although some damage was reported.

At press time, the effects on credit union employees and members was still being sorted out.

Employees of Alabama One CU here were in early Thursday answering phones to assist members and make sure staff were OK. An employee manning the phones told Credit Union Journal the AOCU had yet to hear from a number of its employees and was concerned, saying she woke up to "one of the most devastating scenes" she has witnessed. "Part of 15th Street is just gone. I don't know what to say. We are cleaning up and trying to do the best we can."

The $580-million Alabama One's 15th Street branch had a hole ripped in its roof, windows blown out, and water inside. Despite the devastation in the town, where reportedly 15 lives were lost, only the one Alabama One office was thought to be damaged, according to Tommy Cobb, CEO of Tuscaloosa FCU and local CU chapter president.

"From what I have heard, most of the credit unions have checked in with no damage. Our Skyland branch is without power."

Cobb said the $50-million TFCU had not had time yet to reach out to its membership, but he had spoken to one member who sold him his cup of coffee at a local convenient store that morning. "I asked her if she had power last night and she said, 'No. My home blew away.' I told her I admired her for coming to work because people needed her. The lines for food and supplies were long at her store."

In Birmingham, Ala., where tornadoes claimed the lives of 11, credit unions were open for business in the wake of the storm. Teresa Cohen, a loan officer at the $19-million ANG FCU, said most of the damage was outside the business district. The League of Southeastern Credit Unions said it was instituting its disaster plan to help Alabama CUs, shared Mike Bridges, VP of marketing and communications.

The Tennessee CU League, which was without power for two days, reported that it had no information on any credit union offices in the state being damaged by the tornadoes. In Nashville, Ron Smith, CEO of the $52-million Electric Service Credit Union, was crossing his fingers late last week that the massive flooding that hit Nashville in 2010 will not happen once more.

"Here we are, almost to the day the flood came last year, and we are worried again," said Smith, noting people across the city have been filling and stacking sand bags. "The (Cumberland) river is supposed to crest three feet below flood stage Thursday night."

Smith, who said one of his branches suffered $30,000 in damage last year, noted that heavily saturated ground and drainage water caused a lot of last year's flooding. "We have been hit by storms since late last week and the ground, I don't think, will hold it anymore. The flash flood warnings are out."

In Mississippi, where 32 deaths were reported, credit unions and their membership were unaffected, according to Charles Elliott, president of the Mississippi CU Association. Credit unions in Missouri apparently dodged the tornadoes and the only concern was minor flooding in Poplar Bluff, the Missouri CU Association reported.

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