WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – No matter what else happened to credit unions in Florida and a few other southern states in 2004, this past year will certainly go down as the year of the Hurricane as four named storms plowed into the region in six weeks. Hurricane Charley became the first unwelcome guest in mid August, strengthening into an ugly category four storm before taking a quirky turn that brought it ashore further south on Florida’s Gulf Coast than had been anticipated. The move left credit unions and credit union vendors headquartered or with facilities in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area breathing a sigh of relief. But Charley proved damaging to credit unions and their members across the state, cutting a swath over the peninsula to emerge on Florida’s East Coast, leaving a trail of damage in its wake and killing 27 people. Less than three weeks later, Hurricane Frances, a much larger and slower moving storm, plowed into Florida’s East Coast, including the Palm Beach area, where Credit Union Times is headquartered. “You know, people have been trying to one up each other on damage. Charley was worse than Frances, Port Lucie’s worse than Punta Gorda, and like that,” said Robert Delaney, CEO of the $108 million Gold Coast FCU, headquartered in West Palm Beach. “But the bottom line is whether or not you have power,” he said. “We have become very dependent on electricity and things down here degrade very quickly when you don’t have it.” The Florida Credit Union League announced the start of a fund which would take donations on behalf of Florida credit union employees and volunteers, some of whom suffered extreme property damage because of the storm. Delaney spoke to Credit Union Times from his office in West Palm Beach which remained without power on September 8, but which had air conditioning, computers and Internet access, thanks to a $100,000 generator that the credit union brought on site. “Best $100,000 we ever spent,” Delaney said, crediting the machine, which runs on diesel fuel, for helping keep the credit union serving its members in the wake of the storm. But Mother Nature had still not finished with Florida in 2004. On September 15, Hurricane Ivan began moving ashore along Florida’s Panhandle, dealing significant blows to credit unions and credit union members in the Pensacola Florida area as well as in Mobile, Alabama. Parts of some Alabama and Florida coastal towns were swept out to ocean in the storm. Hurricane Jeanne proved to the final named storm of the year, coming ashore on Florida’s east coast on September 25, north of the Palm Beach area, bringing still yet more rain and more disruption. All told, the four storms in 2004 in Florida alone, cost more than $40 billion in damage and claimed 117 lives, according to published reports. Other countries suffered also. For instance, Jeanne caused severe flooding in Haiti, unleashing mudslides and drowning thousands in the impoverished Caribbean nation. The four were so bad that the National Hurricane Center is recommending the four names be retired from those allowed to be used for naming storms in the future. -

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