Amy and Brian Elford first lost their home to a tornado, then lost many of their belongings to looters.
Theirs was one of about eight houses in Deerfield, Cohoctah and Tyrone townships that were destroyed Friday by a twister that spun through Livingston County.
The tornado damaged at least 250 homes and businesses in Livingston, Genesee and Oakland counties as it moved along a 26-mile path. Damage estimates were not expected for some time, officials said.
On Monday, the Elfords discovered to their dismay that thieves had gone through the rubble of their Deerfield Township home and stolen televisions, tools, a stereo, copper pipes and other items. Among the debris, however, the couple found some irreplaceable mementos, including a framed, black-and-white photo of Amy Elford kissing her husband at their wedding five years ago.
"This makes me so happy," she told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell.
Elford was home with her 10-year-old niece; her 1-year-old daughter, Emily; and her son, Brian Elford II, 2, when the power went out at about 5:15 p.m. Friday. The woman was on the telephone with her husband when she noticed a strong wind had bent a pine tree "completely onto its side," she said.
Amy Elford stuck Emily on her hip and grabbed her son's hand while also getting her niece toward the basement. As the woman wrapped her fingers around the doorknob of the basement door, the wind ripped the roof off right above their heads, she said.
"We all kind of freaked out," Elford said.
The foursome managed to make it down into the basement but after a minute or two, the weather quickly calmed down. Elford decided it was time to leave, so she went out to the car with the children and found a piece of wood protruding from the windshield.
"I didn't know where I was going, but we left," she said. They ended up at her mother-in-law's home in Byron.
When the couple returned to their own home, they discovered it had been destroyed. The right side of the three-bedroom house, where her son's bedroom was located, was a tangle of broken wood, dry wall and windows.
Insulation was scattered in the trees and yards. Children's toys dotted the lawn.
"I'm grateful I decided to take my chances and leave," Amy Elford said. "We'll rebuild."