Conway residents reflect one year after EF-1 tornado - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Conway residents reflect one year after EF-1 tornado

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(Western Mass News file photo) (Western Mass News file photo)

February 25th marks one year since an EF-1 tornado tore through the small towns of Goshen and Conway, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. 

Residents of Conway are still in disbelief that a tornado could ever hit their town, let alone in a winter month.

Fire Chief and Incident Commander Robert Baker said he heard the wind start blowing as it kept getting stronger.

"I told my grand kids, 'Quick, get into the center of the house because this is like a windstorm we've ever experienced,'" Baker said. 

Town local Steve Thomas said he and his guests we were wondering what was going on.

[WATCH: SkyDrone video of the damage in Conway one year later]

"There was rain dripping all over the place. I looked up, and there was no roof on the house," Thomas explained.

Thomas' house was badly damaged in the tornado.

Justus Conant, another town resident, said that he ran into the Conway Inn as the tornado hit, holding tight to a post.  He noted that there was such a pressure drop that it blew the doors of the building wide open. 

Conway is in southern Franklin County, tucked into the foothills of the Berkshires. There is a longtime tornado myth that the storms cannot travel over hills or mountains.

With the elevation in town, many thought they were safe from strong storms. That certainly proved to not be the case. 

The Conway tornado was remarkable in many ways.

First, it was the earliest recorded tornado in Massachusetts history. The previous earliest tornado was March 1, 1966.

It's also the first Massachusetts tornado during the winter months of December, January, and February.

[PHOTOS: Tornado causes damage in Conway]

Impressively, there have only been 25 tornadoes in recorded history for Franklin County. 

Soon after the National Weather Service in Boston confirmed that the damage in town was from a tornado, Conway became a hot spot for activity. 

Conway's Chairman of the Board of Selectman John O'Rourke said, "Little Conway in Western Massachusetts, that no one knows where it's located, all of a sudden became a spot on the map."

Many of the iconic buildings in town were damaged, like Maggs Antique Barn and the United Congregational Church. Thomas said, "This is an iconic place, the barn especially. That was the aesthetic anchor of pumpkin hollow." 

Fortunately for Conway, the volunteer effort was incredible in the hours and days after the storm. 

Those who live here agree, a resilience and rebirth that helped put this town and its people back on the map.

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