OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (5/22/13)--Three credit unions in Moore, Okla., saw different outcomes when Monday's EF5 tornado swept through with 200 mile-per-hour winds that leveled thousands of homes and businesses in an area as much as two miles wide and 17 miles long.
"The good news is there is no loss of life or injury to credit union staff and there is minimal property damage to credit unions," said Gary Jones, president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of Oklahoma. "But a lot of people are hurting, and credit union employees are among them.
"There are some stories of near misses, and credit union employees have lost their home and property. We are responding to help," Jones told News Now.
At least 26 credit union employees in the Oklahoma City area may have been affected by severe damage or loss of homes and automobiles, according to tallies of two of the credit unions in Moore--Tinker FCU and Oklahoma Educators CU.
Jones noted that staff and members at Tinker FCU's branch took shelter in the credit union's vault and survived the event while the tornado destroyed the branch around them. (See related story and photo: Tinker FCU Branch Destroyed, Assisting Staff and Members.) The branch is closed indefinitely.
The tornado packed winds between 200 and 210 mph, making it in the strongest category of tornadoes measured under the Enhanced Fujita Scale assigned by the National Weather Service. It killed at least 24 people, including nine children, and injured more than 230 as of late Tuesday afternoon (CNN.com and USA TODAY May 21).
Oklahoma Educators CU President Cindy White was on her way Tuesday afternoon to assess any damage to the credit union's Moore branch, which was closed at the time the tornado hit.
"We know our facility is not leveled, not like Tinker FCU down the street, but we have not been allowed into the area yet," she told News Now. "Our employees there report that the building is still standing, and it is locked." One staffer's home was directly impacted by the tornado.
The third credit union with a branch in Moore, WEOKIE CU, said that branch and the Express Branch South were closed Tuesday due to power outages, Moore's Credit Union Service Center, a shared-branch, also was reportedly closed.
WEOKIE said it will provide no-interest and no-payment loan options to assist members through the crisis. "The WEOKIE family is saddened by the loss of lives and destruction resulting from the May 20 tornadoes," said a message on its website. "We are grateful for the remarkable survival stories, including our colleagues at Tinker FCU," it said.
CUNA Mutual Group told News Now Tuesday that its Property and Casualty Claims Disaster Team had been in contact with CUAO and the credit unions in the Oklahoma City area. As of late Monday afternoon, the only credit union reporting damage was Tinker FCU's branch in Moore, said Phil Tschudy, CUNA Mutual media relations manager. "Fortunately, no one was injured there."
CUNA Mutual is "making arrangements to get adjusters to the area as soon as authorities allow. However, that may not happen until later today or early Wednesday," he said Tuesday. "Any policyholder credit union that has sustained damage should contact our disaster claims line at 800-637-2676," Tschudy said. "It is staffed 24/7."
The Oklahoma Credit Union Foundation is mobilizing to put in place the ability to respond to the needs of credit union. "Our foundation and board will be meeting this afternoon to go over a proposal on how to deploy assistance," Jones told News Now on Tuesday.
The Texas Credit Union Foundation said it is working directly with the Oklahoma foundation and is accepting online donations to the Oklahoma Tornado Relief Fund, as well as assisting Oklahoma in its disaster relief grant process (LoneStar Leaguer May 21).
"We have had incredible amounts of outreach from around the nation from credit unions who have told us they want to help. It is humbling," Jones said, adding CUAO has received a number of e-mails and phone calls. "We are still evaluating what is needed."
"Please convey our incredible gratitude for all the prayers and offers of help," CUAO's Jones told News Now," he said. "We're prepared to get through this."