Melanie Gilbert knew she was in for a long night.

"The wind just kicked up. I mean, it was really, really fast, and I was just peeking through the bedroom window," she said of Monday night's storms. "I could tell it was just gaining momentum like I'd never seen."

Next came the loud crash, then the panic.

"Really scary like, what was gonna happen next?" she said. "Didn't know what to do. I tried to call 911 and couldn't get through. So I thought, well, we've got to contact somebody."

So she turned to plan B: Facebook. It's something most of us use everyday, but this time her status update was a call for help. She posted that a tree had just fallen on the house and she needed someone to call 911, including her address in the post.

It took just two minutes for the first friend to comment, and they kept coming.

"These were high school friends, a former co-worker from Pasadena, California who got online and found an emergency number for us," she said.

Within minutes, she was re-tweeted, re-posted and had started a thread of more than 40 comments. It didn't take long for help to arrive.

More and more, social media is being used for more than just socializing. In the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, thousands took to Twitter and Facebook to check on family and to share updates. And Monday's severe weather was a hot topic on the web, especially when it came to sharing pictures.

For Melanie, the cleanup continues. But she's grateful to her growing list of Facebook friends for helping her make it through the night.

"It's just technology that enables people to do what they would do anyway, which is help people," she said.