North Carolina’s largest credit union, the $38 billion State Employees CU, has closed 27 branches, ahead of Hurricane Florence that is barreling toward the Tar Heel state.
“We are working to help ensure business continuity but are also concerned about the safety of our employees,” Leigh Brady, SECU’s executive vice president of organizational development, said. “Our critical incident response team has been meeting and planning accordingly and will continue to do so.”
The Carolina Credit Union League listed more than a dozen credit unions in North and South Carolina that have announced branch closures with the possibility of more to come.
Credit unions are taking other steps to ensure that members have access to online banking during the weather emergency.
The $269 million Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for example, informed members Wednesday that it activated its disaster and emergency services plan that required moving its online banking platform to a new hosting platform that won’t be affected by the storm.
Nevertheless, Carolina Trust FCU warned members that depending on the nature of the storm, online and mobile banking as well as E-Z Teller phone banking services might not be operational.
Expected to hit the North and South Carolinas coastline Thursday night or Friday morning, Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to Category 2 from Category 4. But before it slams into the Carolinas, the hurricane is expected to slow, which will generate heavy rains, extensive flooding and damaging high winds that can threaten lives and cause massive property destruction.
Electrical power provider for North and South Carolina, Duke Energy, warned there will be massive power outages that could affect up to three million residential and business customers.
“The magnitude of the storm is beyond what we have seen in years,” Howard Fowler, Duke Energy’s incident commander, said. “With the storm expected to linger, power restoration work could take weeks instead of days.
Credit union payments provider PSCU in St. Petersburg, Fla., has been assisting credit unions prepare for the hurricane since Monday. Although the CUSO services more than 900 credit unions, it’s estimated that about 200 of its PSCU credit union members may be potentially impacted in varying degrees by Hurricane Florence.
“We have been reaching out to all of these credit unions,” Rini Fredette, senior vice president for PSCU contact center, said. “Our service executives and our account executive teams are working very closely with their credit unions in these (storm) regions to see what help they may need and whether or not we need to make some changes to their programs around credit line increases, payment skips potentially, and emergency contact center support. The contact center, which is obviously monitoring the storm, has added some significant amount of resources in order to help support the volume (of calls) we expect to get over the next couple of days.”
The NCUA said Wednesday it is closely monitoring Hurricane Florence and posted a hurricane information webpage with material on preparedness and recovery available for credit unions and members in the storm’s path.
The independent federal agency also said it will be ready to assist credit unions with maintaining or restoring operations. The NCUA’s Office of Credit Union Resources and Expansion can provide urgent needs grants up to $7,500 to low-income credit unions that experience sudden costs to restore operations interrupted by the storm.
Credit union members are encouraged to check their credit unions’ websites and social media sites for real-time information updates, including operating hours. Members may also contact the NCUA’s Consumer Assistance Center at 800-755-1030 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. eastern time.