Banks scramble to add cash as Irene approaches

NEW YORK Sat Aug 27, 2011 4:13pm EDT

General view of Manhattan is seen as Hurricane Irene approaches New Jersey, New York August 27, 2011. REUTERS/Kena Betancur

General view of Manhattan is seen as Hurricane Irene approaches New Jersey, New York August 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kena Betancur

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cash is king in a hurricane, but getting it is another question entirely.

Banks across New York City are making provisions so people will be able to get hard currency Sunday and Monday, even if Hurricane Irene knocks power out and floods branches.

One of the enduring lessons from the hurricanes of 2005 is that cash is crucial in a storm zone for basic staples, yet often difficult to come by. After Katrina, for example, ATMs across New Orleans simply did not work.

With that in mind, people scrambled to ATMs on Friday and Saturday morning across New York and New Jersey, often withdrawing hundreds of dollars to prepare.

JPMorgan Chase & Co kept its Chase branches open late Friday night and opened some early on Saturday, though like most every other business in the city they closed early ahead of the 12 p.m. EDT shutdown of regional mass transit.

The bank has extra "cash packs" ready to supply branches Monday morning and may deploy mobile ATMs, which are wireless and run on battery power, in hard-hit areas like the Financial District of lower Manhattan.

Bank of America Corp said Saturday it may do much the same thing, but on a larger scale.

The bank has commercial trucks with generators and built-in ATMs, both smaller cash-only units and full feature machines that allow deposits. It also has mobile branches -- effectively trailer homes -- with teller windows and offices.

Across the board, other major New York banks also said they took extra precautions.

"Capital One Bank topped off all of our ATMs prior to the closure of our branches in the Northeast. In addition, we have made appropriate preparations to reload cash if ATMs begin to run low of cash," Capital One spokesman Steve Schooff said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Toronto Dominion's TD Bank unit said it had been monitoring cash flows and refilling ATMs as necessary.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; editing by Todd Eastham)

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