The town of Midland, Ont. has declared a state of emergency after a suspected tornado touched down, causing severe damage and leaving thousands of people without power.

The storm hit around 6:50 p.m., damaging a trailer park, a nearby Honda auto dealership, a marina and possibly a Wal-Mart -- but causing only minor injuries.

Latest information:

  • At least 8,400 people in Midland without power, another 10,000 without power in the Peterborough-area, and 3,200 in Essex County 
  • Storm fading as it moves east to Kingston
  • Tornado warning for York, Durham ends 
  • Second weather system moving north from U.S. into Ontario

Still images sent from the scene show a toppled trailer and downed lines across the roads. There were also reports of gas leaks.

James Downer, the town's mayor, declared a state of emergency at 7:33 p.m., not long after he said he saw funnel clouds swirling above his own house.

"The winds were extensive and they caused a great deal of damage," he told CP24. "One half of my town is functioning as normal, the other half is quite chaotic."

The municipality's southwest portion was hit hardest, Downer said.

"We have factories with roofs torn off. We have gaping holes in a lot of our industrial buildings. It's just a mess."

The weather system has since moved east. After midnight, a tornado watch was in effect for Peterborough and the Kawartha Lakes, Environment Canada said. A tornado watch was also in effect from Tweed, south to Prince Edward County and east to Kingston.

"Radar is detecting a severe rotating storm possibly producing a tornado northwest of Lindsay," it says.

"This is a warning that severe thunderstorms with tornadoes are imminent or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions. Take immediate safety precautions."

Another severe weather system is moving north from the U.S., and Environment Canada has issued a tornado watch for Windsor, Leamington, and Essex County -- it was downgraded from a warning at midnight. Chatham-Kent and Rondeau Park are also under a tornado watch.

In Midland, which sits on the southern shore of Georgian Bay about 150 kilometres north of Toronto, resident Jaz Patel told CTV News Channel that he looked up and saw "debris flying over our building, two-by-fours and all that, just funneling around."

"You could see the water on the roof being sucked back inside the tornado, he said. "All you could hear was sirens for an hour."

As many as 40 mobile homes were destroyed in the town and a number of other buildings were damaged, Downer said.

Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Midland, Coldwater and Orr Lake 10 minutes before the suspected tornado struck.

"Radar is detecting a severe thunderstorm east of Midland moving eastward at 50 km/h. This storm is showing a radar signature of rotation and is capable of producing large hail and damaging wind gusts," it said, cautioning that such storm systems can produce tornadoes.

Shortly before 8 p.m. Emergency Management Ontario issued a red alert for an area bounded by Penetanguishene, Collingwood, Orillia and Barrie. But it ended before midnight.

Downer said the community is coping well under the circumstances. About 150 people have been displaced but the Salvation Army is providing them with food and shelter.

Residents have been practicing monthly emergency drills to prepare for such an event, he said.

"We've found in the last five to six years that these storms are coming quick, they're hitting hard and then they're leaving," he told CTV News Channel.

"It's not like the old days when it would storm for two or three days, and you would get thunder and lightning. These things are coming out of nowhere."