ANGUS, Ont. -- Sitting in her living room, 77-year-old Joan Wishart had just got up to take cover Tuesday night when a giant spruce tree crashed through her ceiling right where she had been sitting seconds before.
"If she hadn't moved she would have been killed." recalled her tearful daughter, Alison Godin.
The hum of chainsaws could be heard for miles around this small town north of Toronto, after a tornado cut a path of destruction through a residential neighbourhood, severely damaging about 100 homes Tuesday evening.
Environment Canada said a tornado likely touched down in Angus.
Hundreds of residents have been displaced, with some homes destroyed.
Workers and homeowners set about Wednesday to clear trees from crushed rooftops and shattered windows.
Many could only stare dumfounded at their homes with missing walls and roofs that were ripped away.
Residents have been told to stay away from the destruction.
"We don't want people going into places that are unsafe," Ontario Provincial Police Const. Kelly Daniels said. "For everyone's safety, we can't have people walking through the scene."
Those who were unable to go home were taken in by neighbours or their families, but were asked to register at the arena for assistance.
Donations have already started pouring in.
Miraculously, only three people suffered minor injuries after the EF2 tornado -- considering a mid-strength twister -- touched down at 5:20 p.m. Tuesday.
Environment Canada said there were wind speeds to up 220 km/h.
Ivan Walker said he watched the sky blacken before the tornado hit.
"It was like a black wall of water -- there were no raindrops, it was a sheet."
Premier Kathleen Wynne said she plans to visit the area in the coming days to offer her support.
"Today, the people of Angus and other communities across Ontario are dealing with the shock and devastation," she said in a statement.
"I know that the people of Ontario are strong. The community has pulled together and is rallying around those who have been most impacted by the storm. This caring and compassion will help them as they rebuild."
Local MPP Jim Wilson said the tornado was "more concentrated" than the infamous 1985 tornado that ripped through nearby Barrie and Orangeville.
In that case, commercial businesses and farmland were damaged.
"This has hit families," Wilson said, adding he saw entire bedrooms torn apart and strewn across the street during a walkthrough Wednesday. "It's pretty devastating."
Crews were working to restore power to about 3,500 customers Wednesday morning, as well as thousands more around southern Ontario, where the storm toppled trees and knocked down power lines.
Soldiers from neighbouring CFB Borden pitched in Wednesday with cleanup efforts.
Students were back in class at the partially damaged local high school, but exams were delayed by a day.
- with files from Tracy McLaughlin