RAYMORE, Sask. - A tornado that destroyed some homes and damaged others on a Saskatchewan aboriginal reserve was even more powerful than first thought, an Environment Canada meteorologist said Sunday.

A storm team with the federal agency has had a chance to see the damage from Friday's twister on the Kawacatoose First Nation first hand and is now estimating the community was hit by a tornado few Canadians ever experience.

"Right now we're saying, as a preliminary rating, we're ranking this tornado as an F3. In terms of wind speed estimates that correlates to somewhere between 250 to 330 kilometres per hour," said Dave Carlsen in an interview from an Environment Canada office in Winnipeg.

Previous estimates were that winds had reached anywhere between 100 and 200 kilometres per hour.

Experts made a guess at the possible wind speeds based on the damage seen in photographs taken after the twister ripped through the reserve southeast of Saskatoon. But on the ground, the damage looks much worse.

"There was one steel quonset hut that was apparently ripped out of the foundation and part of the foundation was taken out of the ground as well," Carlsen said.

That type of damage to a steel building can be associated with even more powerful winds, but Carlsen said the storm team had to allow for the fact that the ground has been saturated by heavy rain. That could have weakened the foundation somewhat, so it wasn't as strongly anchored to the ground, he said.

The category of tornado that struck the region isn't common in Canada, Carlsen said.

"Of all tornadoes out there, maybe five per cent or fewer are F3s or higher, so we're looking at a fairly rare event. Usually we can expect one or two of these in Canada every year and hopefully, this is the last one," he said.

A research team from the University of Western Ontario was also expected to join Environment Canada officials on the reserve to help determine wind speeds inside the tornado, Carlsen said.

Emergency officials said well over a dozen homes are in ruins or badly damaged on the reserve near Raymore, Sask., along with four farms in the region. Nobody was killed or even significantly injured during the tornado.

Duane McKay, the province's fire commissioner, has toured the ravaged region and says he still can't quite get his head around the level of destruction.

"What word do you use to describe awesome power and destruction? (That's)really what faces you," he said. "When you see how insignificant these buildings were in standing up to this wind force, I don't know if I have a good word to describe that and photos just don't do it justice," McKay said after meeting with band officials.

Some sections of heavily damaged buildings are twisted up like tinfoil and at least four homes on the reserve aren't fit to be lived in, he said.

On one area farm, a huge piece of farm equipment was tossed over 130 metres, landing on top of a shed, McKay said. Homes on three rural properties have been completely destroyed.

"One farmer said 'You know, this is three generations of farm and now it's gone in five minutes.' It's totally destroyed. It's awesome in a negative sense," McKay said.

Band officials have told the provincial government that while the homes on the reserve were insured, they're still assessing whether people living inside them had their own insurance for such things as furniture and appliances.

Norm Vetter, a spokesman with the Ministry of Social Services, said 41 people from the reserve are scattered in hotels as far away as Regina and Saskatoon and 18 others are bunking down with family or friends.

In the coming days, provincial officials will assess how long some of these displaced people may be out of their homes and will work on a plan to help them, he said.

Those who have remained behind to salvage what they can may even be concerned about where their next meal is coming from.

"We're going to be purchasing some food and taking it out to the community at the reception centre. There will also be a limited supply of personal items such as diapers and baby food," said Vetter. "As people express their needs, we'll try to address those needs as they come up."

Further east, in Yorkton, a public meeting was held with provincial officials on Sunday to brief residents whose homes were damaged by floods on Canada Day.

Roughly 1,000 out of an estimated 5,000 homes in the community were damaged after rain from a thunderstorm flooded basements and turned streets into canals last Thursday.

About 160 people forced from their homes in Yorkton are still in hotels, but they could be on the move as early as Monday. Officials were making preparations to bunk them down in the gymnasium of a local school, Vetter said.

"Hotels are not going to be available very soon, as of Monday, so we're going to have to move to a shelter. We're in the process of setting that up."

Hotel rooms have been booked for local events and won't be available much longer for evacuees, Vetter said.

Provincial officials were assessing how many of those displaced people might be able to return to their homes, he said.

The public meeting was held to tell people how to apply for disaster assistance programs because overland flooding isn't covered by private insurance. Health and other safety officials were also on hand to explain how residents should clean up and dry out their flooded basements.

"The public has been dramatically affected emotionally by this and have been displaced from their homes," Mayor James Wilson told CTV. "We're just trying to communicate the necessary information."

Many residents of the flood-ravaged community say they're mainly concerned about cleaning up the mess.

"It's going to take a long time to clean everything up and get the smell out," said Natasha Crowe-Buffalo.

"We're going to have to get into our drywall. We have a bathroom downstairs that we're going to have to take out," said Angela Chernoff.

Volunteers are being matched up with homeowners who need some help cleaning up debris or pumping out flooded basements, Wilson said.