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VIDEO: Volunteers clean up debris left by Conway tornado

  • Tornado damage Recorder Staff—Andy Castillo

  • Jeremy Forbes, left, and Nick Hallenbeck, both 9th graders at Charlemont Academy, remove debris from wetlands in Pumpkin Hollow Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in the aftermath of a tornado Saturday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo. Recorder Staff—Andy Castillo

  • Volunteers remove debris from wetlands in Pumpkin Hollow Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in the aftermath of a tornado Saturday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo. Recorder Staff—Andy Castillo

  • Jeremy Forbes, a 9th grader at Charlemont Academy, removes debris from wetlands in Pumpkin Hollow Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in the aftermath of a tornado Saturday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo. Recorder Staff—Andy Castillo

  • Tony Borton, left, and Melissa Patterson, right, remove debris from wetlands in Pumpkin Hollow Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in the aftermath of a tornado Saturday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo. Recorder Staff—Andy Castillo



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, March 01, 2017

CONWAY — More than 30 volunteers garbed in gloves and boots trudged through Pumpkin Hollow Wednesday retrieving broken boards, siding and shingles left by Saturday’s tornado.

The debris were scattered across roughly 11 acres of saturated ground.

“It’s one thing to deal with your barn, but then to walk into your yard and see trash scattered everywhere, that would be daunting for me,” said Will Anderson, head land steward at the Franklin Land Trust, which organized the cleanup event.

The storm was “tragic to those who see their favorite trees now gone from the landscape, and certainly to those whose houses (were damaged),” Anderson said.

Alain Peteroy, director of land conservation with the trust, said the event was organized in part because the land, while not currently conservation land, is expected to soon be restricted.

Environmental impact

Franklin Land Trust’s cleanup event highlighted the storm’s impact on Conway’s conservation land.

The tornado touched down twice in Conway, on Whately Road and on Main Poland Road in the Poland Brook State Wildlife Management Area, leveling acres of trees — uprooting massive maple trees and snapping pine trees like toothpicks. Right now, there’s no hard numbers on the trees lost.

“Some were uprooted, some were snapped off about 40 feet from the ground,” Town Tree Warden Walter Goodridge said.

On Tuesday, Northern Tree General Foreman Charlie Smith, under subcontract by Eversource, was there assessing the damage. So far, he said crews had taken down 80 trees already, with another 40 or so marked for removal.

“We come back through and recategorized trees — this one got skipped,” he said, pointing to a large maple tree with a crack running through it. Smith added, “It’s too bad, you could have gotten sap out of that.”

Natural healing process

Anderson said extreme weather events are a natural part of the region’s ecology.

“The history of New England woods is we have these holes created, and they recover,” he said. “The forest will respond.”

“These are natural disturbances on the landscape — these are not uncommon,” David Celino, chief fire warden with the state Department of Conservation (DCR), said, adding that Conway’s forest is “robust in regeneration. Within a year, you’ll notice the forest begin to regenerate. It’s a natural healing process that Mother Nature has programmed.”

With that regeneration, however, comes an increased risk of fire damage, he said. “All of a sudden you have this immediate fuel load. The time we would be concerned about that is when it’s dried out and cured — maybe next spring.”

Another potential problem, said Goodridge, is that since the storm removed so many trees, the surrounding forest isn’t as well protected. That, he said, could influence the severity of future storms on the landscape.

“Trees help each other,” Goodridge said. “When you lose or remove trees, those remaining are more vulnerable because they don’t have shelter like they used to.”

Moving forward, Celino said the DCR will help monitor the conservation area for fire risks or other potential hazards and continuing to assist the town as state crews have done since Sunday.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com