Image: Tornado damage
Orlin Wagner  /  AP
Cleanup begins at a tornado-damaged home in Reading, Kan.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 5/22/2011 3:48:41 AM ET 2011-05-22T07:48:41

A tornado swept through the small eastern Kansas town of Reading, killing one person and destroying at least 20 homes and damaging 200 other properties, a state emergency management official said early Sunday.

One person died as a result of injuries sustained in the storm and several others received minor injuries, though an exact number of injured was not immediately available, Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson told NBC News. A hospital in nearby Emporia told The Associated Press that the victim was a man and other people were brought in with injuries, but it didn't release further details.

The fatality in Reading is the first death associated with the series of storms and subsequent tornadoes that swept through parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri Saturday evening. Violent storms, funnel clouds, rain and hail the size of baseballs also pummeled the affected areas.

Witnesses reported uprooted trees, damaged homes and downed power lines in Reading, a town of about 230 people about 20 miles northeast of Emporia. Reports said the downtown post office and fire station also were damaged.

Officials in the town converted the local elementary school into a makeshift shelter for those made homeless by the storm, Watson told NBC, noting that state officials will work with staff from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Sunday morning to begin evaluating the full extent of the damage.

A Facebook group was set up to support Reading residents and post information about residents' whereabouts and reports of damage.

A state highway leading into Reading was closed and officials asked volunteers to hold back, The Emporia Gazette reported.

In Oskaloosa, winds knocked down fences and trees. One fell on a trailer but officials got the occupants out, TV station KMBC reported.

Tornado warnings remained in effect in Osage, Douglas and Franklin counties late Saturday as baseball size hail was reported by local media.

Two tornadoes touched down earlier in the Topeka area, NBC Station KSHB reported.

Residents reported seeing baseball-sized hail and downed tree limbs across the city, and staff at the Topeka Capital-Journal's downtown office heard storm sirens throughout the storm and found cars' windows had been blown out in the parking lot, the newspaper reported.

Topeka police Lt. Scott Gilchrist told the Capital-Journal that there were reports of downed power lines and trees, but that flooding wasn't an issue.

"We came out fairly well off," he told the newspaper.

A tornado was confirmed on the ground about 7:05 p.m. in Perry in Jefferson County where debris was reported flying, but damage reports were minimal.

NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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