A 90-year-old man was killed when a tornado hit his home in Minnesota on Thursday, and in Wisconsin, lightning apparently killed a dozen cows and struck a woman as she left a supermarket.
Twisters, heavy rain and hail as big as grapefruit also struck the Dakotas, stripping trees of their leaves, and power was knocked out around the region.
The dangerous weather even spread to the east coast. The prospect of a rare tornado in New York loomed over the city briefly Friday morning, but the National Weather Service canceled its warning and said no tornado touched down anywhere.
The warning was in effect for about 30 minutes in sections of Manhattan, the Bronx and northern New Jersey. The storm moved quickly at 25 mph through the five boroughs.
In Nicollet County, Minn., a tornado ripped roofs, fronts or sides from farm homes along a 12-mile stretch of highway between Nicollet and St. Peter. Powerline poles lay along the road, and some treetops were sheared off.
When the sirens sounded, Theresa Kampa ran downstairs, reports Bridgette Bornstein of CBS affiliate WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.
"I was down in the basement and just heard, like they say, the train sound coming and saw the whirling out of the windows. Within 30 seconds, it was done," said Kampa.
Mary Rahm, 22, saw the tornado dip down twice from the clouds before it hit the ground. That's when she grabbed her newborn baby and ducked under a desk.
"My 5-week-old son just made it through his first tornado," Rahm said. "This is wicked."
A tornado in nearby Kasota killed a man who was trapped in his home, said Tom Doherty, chief sheriff's deputy in Le Sueur County.
Several residents were treated at hospitals for broken bones and other non-life-threatening injuries.
An earlier line of thunderstorms dropped hail as large as softballs in several communities, smashing the windshield of a New Prague fire truck. In Northfield, hail damage to 11 police squad cars forced officers to borrow vehicles from the sheriff's office.
At least a half-dozen tornadoes raked across central South Dakota, destroying farm homes and damaging power lines.
Jeff Miller said the storm looked like a blanket as he watched from his mother's home near Wolsey.
"I was worried about whether I was going to be here today," Miller said Friday, surveying the debris.
"That used to be a barn," he said.
Neighbor Bill Timm lost nine buildings, including two houses.
"They're not flattened, they're gone," said Kristi Brakke, Timm's sister.
North Dakota had heavy rain, funnel clouds, and grapefruit-sized hail.
"It didn't really hail all that much, but what it did hail was big," Stanton City Auditor Rick Honeyman said.
In Wisconsin, a 43-year-old woman was knocked to the ground while carrying an umbrella and groceries through a parking lot in Waukesha County.
"I don't remember hearing thunder or seeing lightning or anything," Kelly Owen told WISN-TV in Milwaukee. "It's the weirdest sensation."
Lightning also killed a dozen cows on a farm in Marshall, and strikes were suspected of starting fires at a seniors' apartment complex in Kenosha and a home in Cottage Grove home.
More rain was expected Friday in Michigan and the upper Mississippi Valley southwest to Kansas and Oklahoma.