A tornado churning toward downtown Wichita late Monday afternoon lifted just before it reached the city, weather officials said.
"We dodged a bullet," said Dick Elder, meteorologist-in-charge at the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.
A line of violent weather produced tornadoes in Kansas and Oklahoma, where they killed at least five people near Oklahoma City.
In west Wichita, the tornado became visible from Mid-Continent Airport, sending airline passengers on flights to shelter and sounding storm sirens across the city.
Predictions of turbulent weather caused Wichita State to call off classes after 4 p.m., and the tornado sighting sent people scurrying for shelter.
But cloudy skies, which lingered over Wichita most of the day, helped divert the tornado from hitting the city, meteorologists said.
"The clouds helped make the air down low to the ground more stable," said Paul Howerton of the National Weather Service. "The sun had broken through off to the south and west (and) probably helped the storms change direction."
In Oklahoma, Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jerry Lojka said two people were killed in Oklahoma City and three were killed in Cleveland County, to the south of the city.
The agency did not have any additional details, including how the people died.
Officials reported that at least 58 others suffered injuries throughout Oklahoma in the daylong onslaught. Two of the injuries were critical.
Tornadoes raked the Oklahoma City area near rush hour, tossing cars and mobile homes along the I-40 corridor. Storms brought 4-inch hail and left tens of thousands without power.
Emergency managers feared the number of injured or dead could rise as first responders fanned out across the state.
Two homes were reported leveled near Seminole, 56 miles east of Oklahoma City.
I-40, a major east-west route, was closed in both directions just east of Oklahoma City.
Contributing: Ron Sylvester, The Wichita Eagle Contributing: Associated Press
A Love's truck stop took a direct hit.
"Miracle of all miracles, we don't have any injuries from that location," Love's spokeswoman Christina Dukeman said. "We will rebuild and reopen."
I-35 was closed for a time at the Kansas-Oklahoma state line because overturned semis blocked all lanes. At Moore, near Oklahoma City, trucks were overturned in the median but the road remained open.
In Kansas, weather damage reports rolled in from Cowley and Kingman counties.
"We're not sure if it's straight-line winds or tornado damage," a Kingman County dispatcher said of a few houses damaged between Belmont and Norwich.
"No actual towns have been hit," she said.
Two tornadoes were on the ground at the same time in Cowley County. One straddled the state line, said Troy Combs, public information officer for Cowley County Emergency Management.
Extensive street sign, power line and tree damage was reported in Arkansas City, Combs said, and a tornado may have brushed the southern edge of the city.
"It looks like a heck of a storm went through," Combs said.
Damage to a barn, trailer and outbuildings was reported a few miles from Dexter, he said, and at least one home in the town was damaged.
Tornadoes were hopping around the southern part of the county, Combs said, so it may be difficult to determine how many there were. For the moment, he said, the official count was three.
The storms left 1.36 inches of rain near Winfield and 0.72 inches in Wichita.
Rainfall of up to 2 inches sparked flash flood warnings across southeast Kansas on Monday night.