Nightly News   |  May 22, 2011

Wild weather whips across Midwest

Kansas experienced its lightest tornado season in decades until last night when a giant storm ripped across the state. Minneapolis and Missouri also got hit hard. NBC's Janet Shamlian reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: We begin with a developing story out of Minnesota where severe storms and at least three tornadoes have swept through sections of Minneapolis . Early pictures from there show extensive damage in residential areas in north Minneapolis and thousands are said to be without power. By late afternoon, our colleagues at The Weather Channel had tallied at least 17 tornadoes across sections of Minnesota , Iowa and Missouri , on what has been an especially dangerous and volatile weekend throughout the country's midsection. Right now severe weather watches and warnings cover a 1,000-mile stretch from Dallas north to the Twin Cities . NBC 's Janet Shamlian leads off our coverage with this report.

JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: A first look at the devastation from above after at least four suspected tornado touchdowns in and around Minneapolis .

Unidentified Man #1: Everybody OK?

Unidentified Man #2: Everybody OK.

Man #1: OK?

SHAMLIAN: Shocked neighbors getting their first look at the damage.

Unidentified Woman #1: Then it got real dark. The power started going in and out. And we just made a run for it.

SHAMLIAN: Like this home ripped apart at the seams, debris everywhere. And tonight, thousands are without power.

Unidentified Woman #2: I mean, windows were flying, glass was flying everywhere. We just barely got out of there.

SHAMLIAN: It comes one day after a similar siege in Kansas . Ominous clouds and piercing sirens warned of trouble, but even for a state in tornado alley 's path, this was a hard hit. The tiny town of Reading, Kansas , population just over 200, was the bull's-eye for a powerful twister Saturday night, an EF3 with winds of up to 165 miles an hour. Twenty homes were flattened, many more were damaged and the community is littered with the evidence. One man died in the storm. The governor has declared a state of emergency for 16 counties. It had been one of the lightest tornado seasons in decades for Kansas . This was the first tornado in May.

MIKE BETTES reporting: Everything's come together for an outbreak of severe weather . A strong low has come off the Rocky Mountains and that's forced into some moisture in from the Gulf of Mexico . The two together are a recipe for disaster.

SHAMLIAN: Bettes and a team from The Weather Channel were out in the path of a Missouri storm this weekend as a twister formed right in front of them.

Unidentified Man #3: Oh, there's the funnel!

BETTES: There's a funnel up top there.

Man #3: Up above the top of the...

BETTES: You can see it very well defined up there.

SHAMLIAN: The twisters cut a wide path. This one spotted in Oklahoma .

Unidentified Man #4: It's coming! The power lines right here!

SHAMLIAN: And in Nebraska , the unmistakable sound of hail. Residents say it looked like golf balls were being dumped from the sky. This wild weather comes on the heels of a violent and deadly late April outbreak, the largest in US history ; twisters across 21 states, claiming more than 300 lives. And the weather story continues here in Louisiana . The rain from that system that brought tornadoes will flow into the Mississippi , adding to the floodwaters and the concern for so many people in this area. Lester :

HOLT: Janet Shamlian , thanks. The Weather