Residents in the small town of Elie woke Saturday morning to the devastation caused by one of three tornadoes that ripped through southern Manitoba.

Environment Canada received reports of tornadoes touching down Friday in the Carman area, in Elie, and west of Portage La Prairie.

©Joe Bryksa/Winnipeg Free Press/CP
A flour mill and truck were damaged after a tornado touched down in Elie on Friday.

The worst damage was in Elie, 35 kilometres west of Winnipeg, where a tornado struck at about 6:30 p.m., destroying four homes and a flour mill. Two other homes were seriously damaged, along with a grain elevator.

There were no reports of injuries.

It was a sight that Violet Enns could never have imagined - a twister just beyond her farm house. She picked up her camera and stood in awe.

"It started touching down and picking up stuff and things were flying, and it kept getting bigger and bigger," she said.

Lori Cayer and her niece were on the Trans-Canada Highway when they saw the funnel cloud hit the ground near Elie.

©Wayne Hanna/Canadian Press
A tornado touches down near Elie, west of Winnipeg, on Friday, where at least four homes were destroyed and several others damaged.

"I saw a big purple cloud with a pointy bit coming down. It grew super wide, the entire sky was swirling above our car," Cayer said. "Hail sounded like golf clubs pounding our car. Everyone stopped on the road."

The tornado angled away and crossed the highway, where it damaged a flour mill, one of the big employers in the town. A number of cars were swept away.

Tornado ripped through power lines

"It went through town and I saw the houses blow up around our car, saw stuff swirling round and round," Cayer said. The wind was green because trees were ripped apart and there were huge explosions when it hit hydro."

The RCMP and fire commissioner's office secured the scene and made sure all the residents were accounted for.

Reeve Roland Rasmussen said it's shocking to think a whole area of town was destroyed in what seemed like only one minute.

"It's a typical small community - everyone helps everyone out. It'll work out in the long run, but right now it's devastating and shocking," he said.

Len Kindred was at the Elie Hotel when he saw the tornado touch down.

"It was like a freight train, an old steam engine coming down ... and it was howling, and we could just see it was collecting birds, shingles, you name it, going up like thousands of feet in the air."

Police are warning people to stay away from the destruction zone because of downed power lines and ruptured natural gas pipes.