Florida CUs Prep for 'Nuclear' Hurricane Irma
Credit union CEOs are heeding the dire warnings of Florida officials who have emphatically described Irma as a “nuclear” hurricane that is expected to bring life-threatening winds, storm surges and torrential rains to south Florida early Sunday morning.
The three credit unions in Key West, Monroe County Teachers FCU, Keys FCU and Southernmost FCU, closed their shops on Wednesday while at least a dozen more cooperatives are closing branches, drive-thrus and offices early today or Friday.
A few credit unions have already announced that they do not expect to reopen until Tuesday, September 12. But credit unions may be forced to keep their doors closed for longer if Hurricane Irma’s wrath is as bad as weather officials say that it can be. Nonetheless, many credit unions are expected to continue member services through online and mobile channels, ATMs and shared branches.
Drew J. Breakspear, commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, issued a proclamation Wednesday that authorized state, national, and federally chartered financial institutions affected by Irma to close or remain closed until emergency conditions no longer exist.
Nearly 90 of Florida’s 136 credit unions could be in the direct path of Hurricane Irma if it lands squarely on the state’s southern tip or along the east coast of the state.
The League of Southeastern Credit Unions estimated there are 69 credit unions and their branches scattered throughout the south Florida region where the expected impact of Hurricane Irma is projected to be the greatest, according to national weather reports on Thursday afternoon. An additional 18 credit unions and their branches are located along the northeastern coastline (near Jacksonville) where the storm may have a serious impact as well.
Because Hurricane Irma is wider than Florida, it could bring devastation on state’s west coast as well. During a Thursday news conference, Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians to be prepared to evacuate regardless of which coast they live on. Mandatory evacuations were issued for the Keys and low-lying areas of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, but Scott said Floridians need to monitor the hurricane’s path to be ready to move to nearby shelters.
“This hurricane poses serious threat to the state of Florida and our credit unions,” said Patrick La Pine, president/CEO of LSCU. “The safety of staff is of paramount importance, and the LSCU also stands ready to assist credit unions with serving their members with a mobile unit and any other resources we can provide.”
The league said it will post credit union status updates and other information on its website. The league’s site also lists a variety of resources to assist credit unions before, during and after the storm.
The Southeastern league has also set up a 24/7 disaster hotline, 888-328-5767, for credit union employees to call for updates when primary communication is down.
Although the chance of direct impact is increasing in portions of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, it is too early to specify the magnitude and locations of those impacts, the National Hurricane Center reported Thursday.