April has been a cruel month in the Upper Midwest.
After a harsh winter covered the region with mountains of snow, last weekend brought flooding, ice storms, high winds, and still more of the white stuff.
An undetermined number of banks in Minnesota and the Dakotas temporarily shut their doors this week after storms turned the region into a white wasteland. Worse, the damage wrought upon real estate, cattle herds, and cropland will bedevil bankers for months to come.
"There's going to be some continuing negative impacts, but I think my banks have a handle on it," said Richard A. Duncan, South Dakota's top banking regulator.
The region's inhabitants are accustomed to the elements, but last weekend's mix of rain and ice, flooding, and freezing temperatures, was a test. For instance, people had to contend with white-out blizzards as they sandbagged surging rivers.
Moreover, many communities in which flooding was at most a distant memory were finding themselves underwater.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 14 banks in Minnesota temporarily shut their doors because of flooding or power outages.
Minnwest Bank Montevideo shut down Monday at the request of the town, which was anxious to preserve drinking water. Instead of closing deals, bank chief executive Greg S. Burger spent time fending off floodwaters. "Saturday I worked on the dike passing the sandbags and Saturday night I worked filling sandbags until 1 in the morning," he said.
Yellow Medicine County Bank in Granite Falls stayed open through the troubles, but customers waiting at the teller windows needed to wear galoshes. "We've had an inch of water on the floor," said Arthur Fehr, chief executive officer of the $66 million-asset bank.
The 110-year-old bank's off-site data processing system was unaffected by the flooding, he said. Desks were placed on blocks.
It wasn't flooding that shut down First National Bank of Thief River Falls on Monday. An ice storm knocked over power lines.
"We had no power and people were trying to help where we could," said Curt Neuman, chief executive officer of the $33 million-asset bank.
Gary Preszler, North Dakota's commissioner of banking and financial institutions, said he didn't know how many of the banks he supervises were closed because a blizzard shut down the entire state government on Monday, delaying efforts to collect information.
Harwood (N.D.) State Bank was open for business on Wednesday, but not much was happening. "All our officers are gone fighting the flood," a receptionist said.
Bank of South Dakota, Watertown, expects problems in its mortgage portfolios because the rising Lake Kampeska is soaking many of the homes it has loans on. "We're seeing water where we've never seen it before," said Mike Rieck, vice president of the $120 million-asset bank.
While such disasters frequently spur loan demand, bankers and regulators expect to see credit deterioration, particularly in the agricultural sector. The weather will delay planting and is putting such stress on cattle that this year's calf production likely will be weak.
"It isn't going to all play out until the late summer when these credits come due," said Mr. Duncan, the South Dakota regulator.