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Tornado Causes Heavy Damage In Part Of Western Massachusetts Town

Cleanup and damage assessment continues in the western Massachusetts town of Conway where a tornado touched down over the weekend.

Tree removal crews were busy in the Franklin County town Monday some 36 hours after a tornado with wind speeds up to  100 miles an hour touched down for several minutes and left a path of damage five miles long and 200 yards wide.

The tornado hit with no warning and dropped a tree on the roof of Cami MacDonald’s house.

" I was screaming 'We're going to die, We're going to die'," she said Monday.

But no one was killed and there were no reported injuries. 

A dozen houses were damaged, six have been declared uninhabitable. 

United Congregational Church, which just underwent a $500,000 renovation sustained heavy damage when debris from another building crashed through the roof, and the wind twisted the steeple out of position. 

A 300 year old barn that was used for storage by an antique dealer was flattened.

Lt Gov Karyn Polito, standing in for Gov. Charlie Baker who is attending the national governor’s conference in Washington, toured the hard-hit Whately road section of Conway Monday afternoon. 

She praised local first responders and state  agencies that answered the call Saturday night for  help.  She noted the progress that has been made in restoring full power to the town and reopening most roads.

" We are very fortunate that no one was injured,  she said.

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt  Schwartz said  it is not likely the damage from the tornado will reach the threshold required for a federal disaster declaration.

Conway is a town of about 2 thousand peope with a $5 million annual  budget.

Polito on her tour heard many stories of miraculous close calls, including  one woman who when the second floor of her  house blew off  feared her cat was gone, only to find the cat at the front door of the house an hour  after the storm passed.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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