Tornadoes swept through southern Missouri near dawn on Thursday, damaging homes and businesses and killing at least one person a few hours after another twister touched down in Kansas, authorities said.

Agirl was killed in Missouri, and there were reports of people missing from the Caulfield area, said Highway Patrol Sgt. Marty Elmore.

Howell County Sheriff Robbie Crites identified the victim as Elizabeth Croney, 7, whose mother, father and a brother were injured when a tornado hit their mobile home in a rural wooded area 26 kilometres southwest of West Plains.

It took paramedics about an hour to reach the home, and they had to use chain saws to cut through wooded debris blocking the road.

At least four mobile homes, two houses and two service stations in Caulfield were damaged when the twisters hit at about 6:30 a.m., and a tornado also touched down near an elementary school in Caulfield. Two more tornadoes were also reported in the area, said Mike Wade, a dispatcher at the Howell County Sheriff's Office.

Tornadoes part of huge storm system

"We're just trying to get help out to them at this point," Wade said.

The burst of tornadoes was part of a larger line of thunderstorm and snowstorms that stretched from Minnesota to Louisiana. In eastern Nebraska, strong wind and heavy snow caused whiteout conditions that forced the shutdown of 120 kilometres of Interstate 80.

In Linn County, Kansas, along the Missouri state line, a tornado Wednesday night destroyed a power substation, and ripped roofs and siding from buildings, Linn County Emergency Management Director David Yates said. He said some minor injuries had been reported.

The storm also ripped out poles and electric lines, but power was expected to be restored by the end of the day, said Paul Norris, operations manager for Heartland Rural Electric Co-operative.