Missionary dodged not one, but two hurricanesDec 29, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Colton and Susan Crane of Lander got an early Christmas present this year with the return of their oldest daughter Lindsay, 20, who had been in the Dominican Republic for more than a year as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Many local residents go on missions after high school, but their parents usually don't have to worry about the young adults weathering major storms like Lindsay did during her time abroad.
She was in the DR when hurricanes Irma and Maria both threatened the island.
"You know ... I've heard the term 'hurricane season' before, but it's never really meant anything to me," said Colton Crane, who has a dental practice in Riverton and just completed three years as chairman of the Central Wyoming College Board of Trusteees.
"Sometimes you see on the news people are putting boards over their windows and you think, 'That must be a really bad thing.' But I'll tell you, when your little girl is down there, it's different. It becomes very real in a hurry."
A few days before Irma was scheduled to approach the DR, the worried dad said he started going online every half hour to monitor the path of the hurricane, which was slated to pass right next to the spot where Lindsay was staying.
"I kept watching, and I saw the projection was it would miss the DR - except just the very north end," he said. "And I knew that Lindsay was right on the north end of the island. So I was a little nervous about that."
He was grateful for the daily updates his family received from church leaders, who assured missionary parents that everyone was OK.
Lindsay and her group had been evacuated from the north end of the island, Colton said, and no one anticipated any problems - least of all Lindsay, who told him she hadn't even been aware of the storm until he mentioned it to her in an email.
"I had sent her an e-mail Sunday saying, 'Hey, there's a hurricane supposedly coming, are you OK?'" Colton recalled. "On Monday she e-mails, 'I didn't even know a hurricane was coming.' She said, 'We don't really watch the news, or have a lot of contact with people who would tell us that - we just go around and help people.'"
The next day, though, she was told she needed to stay inside for 36 hours while the storm passed. In an e-mail to The Ranger, Lindsay said she and her fellow missionaries spent the time playing dominoes and listening to the rain and wind outside.
"I was not scared," she wrote. "I knew it would be OK (and) the church office would take care of us."
Irma brushed by the Dominican Republic as a category 5 hurricane on Thursday, Sept. 7, according to the National Hurricane Center, coming as close as 65 miles north-northeast of the island. Oxfam says more than 24,000 DR residents were displaced by Irma, which also destroyed nearly 5,000 acres of crops and more than 100 houses.
Hurricane Maria emerged a few weeks later, and although that storm was a lower-grade category 3 hurricane when it traveled north of the DR, Colton - who had resumed his weather-tracking habit - said it seemed scarier.
"Maria was showing a pretty direct path headed right toward the DR," he said. "So again I just started getting anxious."
The NHC says Maria came closer to the DR, hovering 55 miles east-northeast of the island overnight Wednesday, Sept. 20, to Thursday, Sept. 21.
It was that evening that Colton had to attend a meeting of the CWC board. Before the meeting started, he shared an emotional moment with those in attendance, recognizing the impacts of the hurricanes in Central America.
"Sometimes I think we get caught up in what we're doing, but there are a lot of people who are suffering," he told the audience, adding, "My own baby girl is in the DR right now. I think that's why I'm a little sensitive about it."
Later he looked back on the feelings he was experiencing at that time, when he was suffering from a lack of information about the situation: Colton said he hadn't heard from his daughter since the Monday before, and he hadn't yet received any messages from church officials.
"I just wasn't sure what was going on - if my daughter was OK," he said. "I assumed I'd have heard something if she wasn't, but then I thought, 'If the power's out, they can't even call - how would I know?'
"There was absolutely nothing you could do except watch (the hurricane) closing in on that island. (You) just pray to God that everything will be fine ... and just sit and wait for a message to come - either positive or negative."
Finally, he heard word from a church leader who said all the missionaries were safe and accounted for. And on the following Friday, Colton got an e-mail from his daughter.
"She usually e-mails on Monday, but where that hurricane came through the (leadership) told the missionaries, 'Send a message to your parents and let them know you're OK,'" he said.
She confirmed his suspicions that Maria had been more intense for the DR, describing an increase in wind and rain during the second storm. Regardless, Lindsay said she wasn't concerned about her own safety - rather, her thoughts and prayers were with the local residents of the island.
"I was worried for the people we teach," she said in her email. "A lot of them have humbler living circumstances, and I was worried for the damages that could take them a lot longer to recover from due to lack of money and resources."
Lindsay returned home Dec. 1 to continue her college career, which she began in high school by earning an associate's degree through the dual enrollment program at CWC.
"It'll be fun to have her here," her mom said. "Then (she'll be) gone again ... off living her life."
Lindsay has one older brother, Jordan, who also went on a mission, to Argentina, and a younger brother, Joseph, who is preparing for his own mission to begin next year.
Colton pointed out that Jordan and Lindsay were gone for a combined 3.5 years, and both had to miss at least one holiday in Lander. Plus, he said, Joseph will be gone for Christmas next year.
"We are so excited (that) we get to have everyone home for Christmas this year," Colton said.
Despite the heartache that can come with the experience, Colton said missions are "wonderful," and he is glad his children are participating.
"They go out (and) learn the world doesn't revolve around them," he said. "It just gives you a chance to kind of grow up. I think it's a great thing.
"There are some parts that are a little nerve wracking - like when there's a hurricane - but for the most part, it's been very positive."