Storm system expects to wreak havoc in Midwest

Weekend tornadoes have been sporadic so far, but they've left behind a lot of debris and some shattered nerves.
CBS News

(CBS News) WICHITA, Kan. - The Weather Service said a band of potentially life-threatening storms stretches from north central Texas clear up to the edges of Minnesota and Wisconsin, putting an estimated 5.4 million people at risk. CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports from Wichita, Kansas.

The weekend tornadoes have been sporadic so far, but they've left behind a lot of debris and some shattered nerves.

"I think everybody was a little in awe of it," said one person from Norman, Oklahoma, "but definitely scared and concerned. So we're glad that nobody was really hurt at all."

Twisters, baseball-sized hail strike Midwest

To be on the safe side. a spring football game at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln was canceled. About 50,000 fans were expected.

The two-day drumroll of watches and warnings from the National Weather Service and the news media have had a deadening effect on some.

"It's like all these stations compete against one another," said Mike Jackson. "'My weather Doppler is better than your weather Doppler.'"

"We do have the closet ready and some supplies in there, so we're a little bit ready for it just in case," said Karen Baker.

"And a prayer book," added Jim Baker.

As the skies darkened and the winds picked up, storm trackers fanned out across the Plains Saturday afternoon in search of the twisters forecasters have been warning are packed inside this system, which was spawned by the collision of extreme condition -- including snow falling from California to the Rockies. The unseasonably cold temperatures are expected to last through the weekend.

"We have got snow falling in the Rocky Mountains on one side of that risk area," said meteorologist Lonnie Quinn showing the area of concern on a weather map from "CBS This Morning". "We have temperatures 80 degrees or more on the other side. And the third element -- and this is the key -- we have a jet stream moving very quickly, precisely located right in between the two -- mixing those two air masses up. When you mix conflicting air masses you get rapidly rising air. The faster the air rises, the more the trouble comes down."

Most of the forecasters are predicting that conditions are about to go from bad to worse, making conditions here in Wichita and across on the Great Plains very dangerous over the next few hours.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.