Metro

State’s first-ever February tornado hits Conway, Goshen

Massachusetts saw its first February tornado in recorded history over the weekend, as a storm with winds of up to 110 miles per hour hit Conway and Goshen on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado was an EF1, the second-least severe classification of twister.

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The tornado mostly caused damage in Conway, and it only briefly hit Goshen, the National Weather Service said.

The town of Conway, which is in Franklin County, declared a state of emergency at 9 p.m. Saturday.

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Officials in the town say several houses were left without roofs and many more were damaged by falling trees.

Six buildings were deemed unsafe, according to an announcement on the town website.

Leaders of the town’s United Congregational Church say it will be closed indefinitely after the roof and sanctuary took heavy damage. Town officials say a barn in the area was destroyed.

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No injuries were reported in connection with the storm.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency director Kurt Schwartz will visit Conway on Monday to see the damage and thank first responders.

National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Belk explained that two conditions need to be present for a tornado: twisting winds low in the atmosphere and a thunderstorm. The second condition is why a winter twister is so unusual for Massachusetts, as thunderstorms typically happen in warm temperatures.

Saturday was the third day in a row that the state saw record-breaking warm weather.

“It’s really been because of our abnormal warmth that we had late last week that set the stage for this to occur,” Belk said.

The state has seen only a handful of tornadoes in cold-weather months and had never recorded a twister in January or February until Saturday, according to Belk.

Massachusetts typically sees one tornado a year, usually over the summer, he said.

Town officials said in an announcement that it would take days to clear all the debris. Conway Grammar School will be closed on Monday since emergency responders are using the building as a staging area.

Hundreds of trees were down throughout town and the storm left a number of homes uninhabitable, in addition to ripping the roof off of the town salt shed, according to the town government.

The storm initially left about 4,000 residents in the area without electricity, but power had been restored in most areas by Sunday afternoon.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Reena Karasin can be reached at reena.karasin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reenakarasin.
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