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Alabama CUs damaged in Wednesdays tornadoes
MADISON, Wis. (4/29/11)--Alabama's credit unions and members took a direct hit from Wednesday's tornados, part of a storm front that spawned more than 155 tornadoes in six states. Although assessments of their situation were just beginning Thursday, already credit unions were reporting damages and deaths. Deaths totaled 263 and were climbing, with 162 reported in Alabama, including several credit union employees' loved ones; 33 in Tennessee; 32 in Mississippi, including two members of a credit union there; 14 in Georgia; and 11 each in Arkansas and Virginia ( April 28). (For a related report outlining the impact in the other states, see "In Mississippi, CU members killed in tornado" in today's System section.) Agility Recovery, CUNA Strategic Services provider, reported it is responding to 15 disaster declarations and has more than 200 members on alert across five states. "The Storm Prediction Center reported 155 tornadoes across the U.S. on Wednesday. This sets a new record for April tornadoes, bringing the total to over 800," said Agility. Although reports are still in the early stages, two Alabama credit unions reported the most physical damage--Gadsden-based Community CU, which lost its Rainsville branch, and DCH CU, Tuscaloosa, according to Mike Bridges, vice president of marketing and communications, at the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU), which serves Florida and Alabama credit unions. DCH CU "had roof damage and cars in the parking lot had windows blown out," he added. "Many credit unions are still without power. Many are working on generators or just not open. As you would imagine, many members have been affected, and a few credit union employees have lost loved ones," Bridges said. "The league is reaching out to every affiliated and non-affiliated credit union to assess their needs. We are also letting credit unions know about the Disaster Relief Fund available through the Southeastern Credit Union Foundation. It’s still early, but we’re attempting to reach out to all of the credit unions in Alabama," he said. The league's Birmingham office was closed Thursday, with no power or no phone service at the office. Power was just restored around 1p.m. ET. "The area around the office is still treacherous," Bridges added, noting the Birmingham office would be open today. A staffer at the Birmingham office told the Credit Union National Association, "We are in full disaster recovery mode right now, trying to get with all the credit unions. It's tough when they don't have power or phones either. Yesterday was unlike anything I have ever seen…it's just almost unreal." By the end of Thursday, the league had made contact with about 60% of credit unions in Alabama. CUNA Mutual's Credit Union Protection Disaster Team was also receiving reports on damage to credit unions from Wednesday night's storms, said Rick Uhlmann, CUNA Mutual's senior manager, media relations. "Disaster team members have been in contact with the leagues in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia. The leagues have reported a few credit unions sustained minor damage and there are reports of more substantial damage at two credit unions in Alabama," he said Thursday morning. Also, "CUNA Mutual's Credit Union Protection Disaster Team is in the process of reaching out to those credit unions we feel were most at risk. With power and phones out in many areas, this will take time. For those identified at risk, who we cannot reach by phone, we will have the catastrophe adjusters in their areas making direct contact with the credit unions," Ullman said. By the end of the business day Thursday, said Ullman, "the Credit Union Protection Disaster Claims Team has contacted all impacted leagues, CUNA Mutual field staff members, and many of the credit unions that are located across the path of Wednesday night's storms." One credit union suffered a major loss. "As rescue and clean-up operations continue and authorities open up closed areas, more damage to credit unions may be identified," he said. Even if they weren't damaged, many credit unions were closed in Tuscaloosa. Alabama Credit Union reported delayed openings at its main office and eight other locations. Its Mercedes offices "will be closed until further notice," the credit union noted on its website. America's First FCU said on its site that six of its 18 branches were "closed due to power outages" on Thursday. Alabama Telco CU said its branches in Madison and Hueytown were closed Thursday. Alabama Central CU noted that "due to widespread power outages, the Tuscaloosa and Decatur branches will be closed" Thursday and today. Members could access their accounts through the Shared Branching Network.
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