When a bank sits a block from the Mississippi River, a flood can mean closing up shop - unless it has a lot of sandbags and contingency plans.
Buffalo Savings Bank in Buffalo, Iowa, has both and has tried to run business as usual in the last week as the river has crested.
Though its interior has not flooded, the bank's parking lot has been under as much as three feet of water, forcing a temporary relocation to the local community center. President Jim Matthys said employees, directors, officers, and even customers have filled sandbags to help protect the building, and local police and county sheriffs have been helping to provide security in the community center.
Buffalo Savings and other banks along the Mississippi have experienced this before; flooding caused extensive damage in 1993 and 1997.
"Frankly, since we went through this in 1993, people are a lot more prepared for it," said John K. Sorensen, president of the Iowa Bankers Association.
Once the flooding recedes, $41 million-asset Buffalo Savings is prepared to help customers affected by letting them extend payments on loans or provide financing to repair damage.
Mary Ellen Domeier, president of $93.9 million-asset State Bank and Trust Co. of New Ulm, Minn., has been sandbagging her house rather than the place where she works, but said her customers will be affected by the flood. Ms. Domeier has been talking with her residential lending officer about working with other local banks to develop a low-cost loan program for victims.
A common concern among these bankers is the frequency of the floods, which they say have been caused in part by the draining of wetlands and are described by meteorologists as 100-year floods, meaning such deluges should be rare.
"The thing that bothers me," said Dirk Gasterland, president of Coulee State Bank in La Crosse, Wis., "is that these are '100-year floods' and we've had one in '93, '97, and 2001."