By MIRANDA DAVIS
and GEORGE FORCIER
CONWAY — Electricity has been completely restored to the town’s residents and business following a tornado that touched down Saturday night.
Officials said only three roads remain closed as of Monday afternoon. While the emergency situation has ended, state agencies are working with the town to focus on recovery and repair efforts.
John Maggs said he heard what sounded like a freight train Saturday night. He went outside to see what had happened and discovered his barn was destroyed.
Maggs and others are recovering from what has been designated an EF1 tornado that lasted less than two minutes, but in that time flattened a barn and ripped up roofs in the Pumpkin Hollow section of Conway.
This is the first recorded February tornado in Massachusetts history, according to Matthew Belk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton. The EF1 rating means the wind speeds were between 86 and 110 miles per hour.
The short but intense storm knocked out power to most Conway homes and businesses.
The town’s building inspector declared six homes unsafe, and those living in the houses have been notified and are staying with friends and family.
John O’Rourke, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Eversource estimated that 95 percent of houses would have electricity again by 10 p.m. on Sunday.
The town declared a state of emergency at 9 p.m. on Saturday and was working throughout the day on Sunday to assess and repair damage, according to a statement released by O’Rourke. The town received mutual aid from fire and police departments across the county. MEMA and the utility companies were also on site throughout Sunday.
O’Rourke said the main concern is the well-being of residents. No one was seriously injured in the storm.
Conway Grammar School was closed Monday, but the town’s emergency shelter in the school was not activated, officials said.
The statement from the town asked the public to stay away from affected areas and wires that are down. It specifically asked the public to avoid the area of Pumpkin Hollow.
The large barn owned by Maggs and his wife Jan was flattened by the storm that also damaged roofs and outbuildings along Whately Road toward the center of town at Route 116. Amazingly, the antique colonial house just a few feet from the barn seemed unscathed. The Maggs barn housed an antique business, which sold old oak furniture and jewelry.
The two went out Sunday morning to inspect the barn and make a plan for retrieving the antiques inside. Throughout the day they were joined by neighbors wanting to help.
“As the day progressed, we were joined by almost a score of neighbors that wanted to helpful,” Maggs said.
Conway’s United Church also suffered damage to its slate roof and steeple, and there were reports of interior damage as well.
The United Church, built in 1885, recently completed a three-year renovation to its interior, which cost more than $137,000.
Several of the neighboring homes along Whately Road off Route 116 also suffered roof damage, with many windows blown out and trees damaged.
The central section of town seems flooded with repair crews, most of them removing large trees, many aged rock maples, which came down in the storm that roared through about 7:30 p.m.
Other towns in Franklin County experienced far fewer outages, with Ashfield the closest, with 164, and Deerfield with 13.
Reach Miranda Davis
at 413-772-0261, ext. 280