Family reflects after Conway tornado destroyed home

  • The roof and front part of the Thomas home were destroyed by Saturday’s tornado in Conway. Jeanne Thomas, in red, is consoled by friends and neighbors who came to help Monday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The roof and front part of the Thomas home were destroyed by Saturday’s tornado in Conway. They were having dinner with friends in another part of their home when it happened and were unharmed. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The roof and front part of the Thomas home were destroyed by Saturday’s tornado in Conway. Jeanne Thompson tells of their dinner party that was so rudely interrupted. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The roof and front part of the Thomas home were destroyed by Saturday’s tornado in Conway. Jeanne and Steve Thomas recount the ordeal on Monday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The roof and front part of the Thomas home were destroyed by Saturday’s tornado in Conway. Their second floor bathroom has a new view. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The roof and front part of the Thomas home were destroyed by Saturday’s tornado in Conway. They were having dinner with friends in another part of their home when it happened and were unharmed. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The roof and front part of the Thomas home were destroyed by Saturday’s tornado in Conway. Their friend Marcia Lewis of Conway helped collect their belongings on Monday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The roof and front part of the Thomas home were destroyed by Saturday’s tornado in Conway. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Shoes, collected by friends of Jeanne and Steve Thomas, after their house was heavily damaged by Saturday’s tornado. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/27/2017 8:58:59 PM

CONWAY — On Monday, chain saws droned into brisk morning air, work crews rappelled on ropes down the United Church of Conway’s roof, homeowners surveyed damaged houses and emergency crews directed traffic away from Whately Road — which a category 1 tornado raked Saturday evening.

At 100 Whately Road, 80 to 110 mile-per-hour winds ripped through a historic, 1860s era house owned by Steven and Jeanne Thomas, tearing off its front wall and roof. The tornado struck shortly after 7 p.m. with little advance warning.

“I had taken the dog out earlier. The clouds were strange, it felt strange,” Jeanne Thomas said about the storm Monday, while leading the way through her debris-strewn yard, stepping over fallen tree limbs. “It’s all hitting me this morning.”

She stopped in the front yard, pointing to where the front of the house used to be. “They went around and sealed things up,” she said, pointing to plywood nailed over an exposed doorway — work done by a few neighbors like Justus Conant.

Earlier, in Baker’s General Store on Route 116, Steven Thomas described the experience to about a half-dozen concerned neighbors. Often, the local couple spends evenings in the older front section of the house. This night, however, along with about six guests, they were having a dinner party in the house’s post-and-beam addition built by Thomas about six years ago.

“The door blasts open like someone shot a cannon into it, and I realized it wasn’t just another thunderstorm,” Steven Thomas recalled. “The lights flickered maybe 30 seconds before everything happened.”

“We heard a bang, and the door flew open. I looked into the utility room. There was no window. I went room-by-room, it was missing the front wall,” Jeanne Thomas said. “Everyone was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re alive.’”

Steven Thomas estimated the older part of the house to be a roughly $200,000 loss, based on an appraisal taken about two years ago.

That night, the couple stayed with neighbors. Sunday morning, they awoke to chain saws as crews labored to remove trees from roadways, electric wires and houses.

For now, Jeanne Thomas said she’s happy no one was hurt. Looking ahead, she said, “We’re scared about tomorrow, scared about collapse. Everybody says it’s a teardown.” She noted that the house is insured.

In the days following the tornado, Jeanne Thomas said they have been overwhelmed by a tremendous show of community support, with the neighbors rallying together to help clean things up.

“I don’t know what’s next,” Steven Thomas said, noting a need to move furniture and personal items into the addition to prevent water damage.

He said they’d like to eventually rebuild.

“Who knows how long that’s going to take?”

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo


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