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Carolina CUs Coping With Historic Storm, Flooding

Charleston, S.C. -- A devastating "once-in-a-thousand years" storm has led to the closing of various credit union branches in the most heavily affected parts of South Carolina.

Brandon Pugh, vice president of public relations and communications for the Carolinas Credit Union League (which is based in Irmo, S.C.), told Credit Union Journal that "quite a few" credit unions closed Monday due to the state of emergency and the broad-based closure of businesses.

"Most [credit union branches] have reopened today [Tuesday] and while we do not have detailed reports from each, only one or two indicated any related facilities issues," he said. "None were presented as catastrophic, and their primary focus is on maintaining service for members in this especially difficult time."

Shannon Pahula, director of retail and marketing at CPM Federal Credit Union, a $274-million institution based in North Charleston, SC , told Credit Union Journal that "all is well" at CPM.

"The safety of our staff and members remained [the] top priority for us during this historic storm," she stated. "We only experienced early closures in two offices and sustained no notable damage. Our only concern at this point will be to continue to monitor the situation and the potential threat of additional flooding."

The Carolinas Credit Union League said select branches of the following credit unions will remain closed Tuesday amidst continued flooding concerns in their areas: Brookland FCU, Carolina Collegiate FCU, Carolinas Telco FCU, Georgetown Kraft CU, SAFE FCU and SC Telco FCU.

Pugh noted one credit union located close to some particularly high waters is the Carolina Collegiate FCU, an $88-million institution based in Columbia, S.C. "Their headquarters is near a creek that overflowed and as a result the area lost power," he explained. "The credit union already was closed, and they identified for members the available ATMs via other shared-branching credit unions, which also had closed facilities yesterday per the state of emergency."

Pugh added that two credit unions—SAFE Federal Credit Union (a $925-million in assets, based in Sumter, S.C.) and ArrowPointe Federal Credit Union ($143-million, Catawba, S.C.)—joined a campaign by a local news station, WACH-TV of Columbia, that seeks donations of suitcases and bags for residents in need.

Meanwhile, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has issued a disaster declaration for parts of her state affected the immense flooding and heavy rains. According to media reports, at least 13 people have died in both South and North Carolina as a result of the devastating flash floods. Moreover, at least nine dams in South Carolina have failed or breached since the weekend, according to the state's emergency management agency. As of Monday, the emergency management agency said at least 10 counties or municipalities had declared states of emergency and almost 400 roads and over 150 bridges have been closed due to flooding conditions.

NCUA said it is "closely monitoring" conditions in South Carolina counties hit by the flooding and stand prepared to assist credit unions in those areas.

"Regional agency staff are contacting credit unions in areas hit by the flooding to determine if they are open," the agency said in a statement. "The agency will be ready to assist credit unions to maintain or restore normal operations, if necessary. "

NCUA's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives would be able to provide "Urgent Needs" grants of up to $7,500 to low-income credit unions for "unexpected costs related to restoring operations disrupted by the floods."

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