BATON ROUGE, La. – Hurricane Rita made landfall as a Category 3, with the eye coming ashore near the Texas-Louisiana border. While Southwest Louisiana took the hit, with damaged homes and buildings, downed trees and power lines, and flooding, early indications are however that Louisiana credit unions escaped without major damage beyond what was already inflicted by Hurricane Katrina. Many had reviewed their emergency procedures with a critical eye following the first hurricane, according to Louisiana Credit Union League officials. "We identified 45 credit unions in the cone-shaped area affected by the hurricane, but many of those were in Lafayette. Based on our contact with Lafayette credit unions, they are fine," said Alicia Blanda, LCUL spokesperson. "We are most concerned with credit unions in Lake Charles (the largest city in the affected area). They've been told they cannot go back in to the city until Oct. 3. We're helping those credit unions establish temporary locations now." The League is in the process of contacting approximately 20 credit unions within Hurricane Rita's path of destruction to determine operating status. LCUL has mobilized a disaster recovery team to assist credit unions in the southwest portion of the state. League staff worked all weekend following Rita's landfall to connect with credit unions. In addition to establishing temporary operations for the affected credit unions, the League is working to match them up with other credit unions and vendors that have offered assistance. Relief efforts for displaced credit unions in the Greater New Orleans area due to Hurricane Katrina are ongoing, as well. "Some New Orleans credit unions are actually up and running now," Blanda said, "and we've had about eight credit unions join the shared branching network as a result of Katrina and Rita." Credit unions displaced because of the storm are asked to contact the Louisiana Credit Union League at (225) 215-5861 with their emergency contact information, disaster recovery hot site location and information they want to share with their members on the LCUL consumer Web site. LCUL has been operating out of a satellite office at Bayou Federal Credit Union since Hurricane Katrina displaced the office and the staff on Aug. 29. The credit union is waiting to receive a structural assessment of its building in Harahan, a New Orleans suburb. -

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