WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Credit unions throughout the Northeast and parts of Michigan, Pennslyvania and Ohio, as well as several Canadian cities, hit by the blackout on Aug. 14 can probably thank the time of day for saving them from being more seriously affected by what is considered to be the largest blackout ever in the U.S. that covered an area of 50 million people. Most of those Credit Union Times spoke with agreed that had the power outage occurred earlier in the workday, the consequences would have been more severe. Instead, by the time most credit union league offices first reported experiencing power surges that preceeded the full blackout – around 4:15 p.m. – virtually all credit unions were closed for the day. As a result, the New Jersey Credit Union League and Pennsylvania Credit Union Association both reported that credit unions around their respective states were minimally affected or not affected at all by the blackout. Those credit unions in the two states that lost power, regained it before they reopened for business on Aug. 15. PACUA staff contacted credit unions in Northwest Pennsylvania and Bradford County, the areas of the state hit by the outage, and heard back from credit unions that while most lost power around 4:15 p.m., power had been restored "within a few hours." All credit unions in Pennsylvania had power and were operational on Aug. 15. The New York Credit Union League in upstate Latham, N.Y. near Albany reported experiencing a brief power surge around 4:15 in the afternoon that lasted for about three seconds, but the League's offices never lost power. Credit unions located in New York's five boroughs and parts of Long Island also lucked out from the time of day the blackout hit. Many remained closed the following day, and those that opened operated with limited staff since many employees were unable to get to work because of lack of subway and Long Island Railroad transportation. Of all the credit union leagues of states hit by the power outage, the Michigan Credit Union League seemed to have been affected the hardest, although League President/CEO Dave Adams said he was still "impressed by how well everything was handled and how everyone dealt with the situation." Like other businesses in the affected states, the Michigan League's two-story, 36,000-square foot building lost all power, including phones, Thursday late afternoon. Since staff also couldn't use their cell phones, Adams said it wasn't until the League got some battery-operated radios working that it became clear to staff just how widespread the blackout was and that they were going to be without power for the long term. Detroit, in southeast Michigan, was the hardest hit areas, and Adams said he was surprised to learn the seemingly helter-skelter pattern of the outage left some areas of the state such as Flint to the north and Brighton, located around 40 miles west of Detroit, never lost power. The Michigan League's main office in Plymouth, which is located around 30 miles west of Detroit, lost all power. However its facility in Lansing remained operational. When Adams closed MCUL's offices on Thursday, he had to lock up the facility manually using the building's deadbolt lock since the security system was knocked out. Following DTE Energy Chairman/CEO Anthony Earley Jr.'s request of businesses in the Detroit area to remain closed, MCUL did not open on Aug. 15 even though power came back on that afternoon. Instead, staff came in over the weekend to assess the situation, and the League's offices reopened officially on Aug. 18. Despite temperatures in the 90′s, Adams said he was impressed with how calm people remained and how cooperative they were. "To have a power outage is one thing, but a lot of people were also caught without enough gas to get home," said Adams as he remembered the long lines of cars at gas stations. On his first day back at work after the blackout, Adams recalled the blackout and said, "It causes all of us as individuals to rethink how prepared we are for this sort of thing. It's a wake-up call. We're dusting off our disaster recovery and crisis preparedness plans." -

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