Hurricane Andrew disrupted banking operations throughout south Florida on Monday, forcing hundreds of branches to close and knocking out automated teller machines.
But many banks said advance planning had helped cushion the blow, and they expected to resume normal operations in most areas today.
None of the state's major banks had calculated potential repair bills Monday, but there were sporadic reports of damage.
Guards Posted at 2 Branches
NationsBank Corp. said that three branches were heavily damaged by high winds. Barnett Banks Inc., the state's largest bank, cited significant damage to two Miami-area branches that required the posting of security guards.
Overall, about 170 of NationsBank's 400 branches in the state closed Monday.
Barnett also said power outages disrupted many of its 100 ATMs in the counties battered by the hurricane.
In some areas, Barnett waited for civil defense authorities to clear debris so employees could approach its cash machines and branches, said Russell Hoadley, a spokesman for the Jacksonville-based company.
"We have task forces all set up and ready to move into areas as the authorities permit us," he said.
Alternative Sources of Cash
First Union Corp., which is based in Charlotte, N.C., and has a major presence in south Florida, acquired supplies of cash from client retailers to stock ATMs because vendors were falling behind on their delivery schedules, said bank spokesman George Owen.
Generators were being installed in key First Union locations so that branches could resume operations quickly.
Barnett anticipated extensive water damage at many facilities. "We're going to have a lot of electrical wiring and circuits and processors and so on that will have to dry out before they're going to work again," Mr. Hoadley said.
The hurricane came ashore south of Miami shortly after 4:30 a.m. and cut a wide swath across the bottom of the peninsula, exiting into the Gulf of Mexico near Marco Island, south of Naples.
Miami's Dade County took the brunt of the storm, with Broward and Palm Beach counties reporting less damage. Many buildings in Homestead, south of Miami, reportedly were flattened.
NationsBank Corp., which is based in Charlotte, hoped to reopen most of its Broward and Paim Beach offices today. But spokesman Tim Lubinsky added, "It's hard to say about Dade."
Mr. Lubinsky said NationsBank had received no information from the Florida Keys (Monroe County), largely evacuated over the weekend.
First Union's data centers in Miami and Pompano Beach remained operational, but Broward and Dade county branches will stay closed today because of power failures, the bank said.
None of the banks reported injuries to employees Monday, but several executives described close calls.
In Coral Gables, just south of Miami, NationsBank executive vice president Graham W. Denton moved his wife, four-year-old son, and two family dogs to a hallway at the center of their house Sunday night.
"We just put down some mats and slept there, closing off all the surrounding doors," said Mr. Denton, who heads corporate lending in the eastern U.S. for NationsBank.
Mr. Denton said he noticed heavy winds after 1 a.m. that peaked between 4:30 and 6 a.m. "It was a high whistling sound," he said. "You'd hear the heavy rain, but what you were really aware of was the severe wind."
He emerged in the morning to find a large oak leaning against his house and another blocking his driveway. "We were very fortunate," Mr. Denton said. "It could have been a lot worse."
In Miami, First Union executive Carlos A. Migoya could not use his car because of uprooted trees and roads filled with debris. Mr. Migoya, president of First Union's banks in Dade and Monroe counties, hopped on a bicycle about I 1 a.m. and pedaled off to view First Union's six offices downtown.
He said one branch had extensive glass damage, but the others were relatively unscathed. As he cycled around First Union headquarters near the waterfront, he noticed a large yacht had crashed into the Bayside entertainment complex.
As bad as Hurricane Andrew was, most major banks were prepared with sophisticated disaster recovery plans. Hurricane Hugo, which devastated the South Carolina coast in 1989, provided some lessons that the banks put to good use over the weekend.
NationsBank, for example, caulked its ATMs and vaults to make them more water resistant. Inside the branches, employees taped windows and covered computer terminals in plastic, according to Mr. Lubinsky.
"Florida businesses generally have plans for dealing with hurricane damage, even though they don't hit often," said Mr. Hoadley of Barnett. "It's just that this one decided to make a direct hit."