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Following cyclone, Utah family awaits word from son serving mission in New Zealand

Posted at 4:02 PM, Feb 14, 2023

SOUTH OGDEN, Utah — A devastating cyclone that walloped New Zealand has a Utah family on edge as they wait to hear from their son who is serving a mission in the remote area.

Logan Williams was in the town of Wairoa when Cyclone Gabrielle struck the country's North Island overnight in Utah. Thousands are without power as New Zealand officials declared a National State of Emergency for only the third time in its history.

Williams, who graduated from Bonneville High School last year, and another missionary, Elder Park, were unable to evacuate before the storm hit, Logan's mother, Amy Williams, said. He has been at the mission site in New Zealand since December.

As of Tuesday afternoon, it had been 30 hours since family members had heard from Logan.

"We're optimistic," said Amy. "Logan is an intelligent young man and he's got a good head on his shoulders. He's been prepared for situations like this throughout his life."

A spokesperson with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Williams and the other missionary were aware of the storm as it approached and we able to gather supplies ahead of landfall. Amy Williams said that Logan's mission president told him to shelter in place and stay inside his apartment.

"There was serious concern with us as to why he was still there at that time," said Amy about talking to her son on Sunday before the storm struck.

Winds gusts of over 87 miles per hour were recorded along the coast, with waves close to 36 feet high off the Bay of Islands, according to CNN. A meteorological service said over 30 state highways were closed and all air, sea, and rail transport for much of the northern half of the North Island was shut down.

"The images that we're seeing are showing houses completely submerged and people have been stranded on the rooftops for hours waiting because the bridges and roads have given way," Amy shared, adding that there's no way in to Wairoa other than helicopter. "Basically, they're just asking the residents there to hold on as long as they can."

The church spokesperson said they were working to get more information on the two missionaries, but would not classify them as missing since so much of the area's infrastructure is inoperable.

"We're just hoping for the best and waiting. That's all we can do is wait," said Amy.