Among the stunned Alabama residents who witnessed the massive funnel cloud in Tuscaloosa were young men and women from the New York area.
Jillian Garcia, who attended Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y., watched the twister swirl around her University of Alabama apartment.
The tornado narrowly missed wiping out her home. Her car was not so fortunate -- the funnel cloud picked it up and wrecked it.
Garcia captured some of the disaster with her cell phone video camera.
Meanwhile across campus, Michael Tibaldo, of Nutley, N.J., was walking outside his fraternity house when he saw "this massive cloud -- like a mile wide. Scary."
"I'm happy to be alive, honestly," he added.
Others from the tri-state area have been keeping their friends and family updated by sending home videos, emails and text messages.
Even though much of western Alabama has no power, many of these tech-savvy survivors have been able to charge their phones or hand-held devices in cars.
They charge them just enough to communicate with people back home and let them know they're OK. They know they're the fortunate ones.