Utah family displaced by tornado says home was looted in their absence

Posted at 5:01 PM, Sep 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-25 00:03:58-04

WASHINGTON TERRACE, Utah – One family displaced by a tornado in Washington Terrace Thursday returned home Saturday to find out they had been the victims of a theft while they were away.

Several areas of Washington Terrace were deemed unsafe after the tornado, but Friday night and Saturday morning those areas reopened and residents were allowed to return home.

By Saturday afternoon, several boxes of stuff filled the front yard of the Padilla home.

"We've been going through everything, trying to just grab and go," Karen Padilla said. Inside, her house sat in disarray.

Her family's belongings ended up thrown about after the tornado hit her home. Much of it is not salvageable, she said, and some areas of the home have been deemed structurally unsound. The family can no longer live there.

On top of the overwhelming and emotional job of sorting through and cleaning up, they found a nasty surprise.

"As we're going through stuff, we started realizing that we had had somebody that had came in our house and had stolen stuff," she explained. "They were upstairs, they were downstairs. They knew exactly kind of where to go and get. "

The family says the stolen items include an Xbox, tablets, video games and even some loose change. The Weber County Sheriff's Office said it is investigating the theft and looking for leads. They said just the one home reported the looting.

“It’s sad when you lose stuff, but when somebody comes in and takes advantage of that, you know, then... Where is the world going to anyway?” Padilla asked.

There are still a few things to be grateful for. She said they reunited with the family pets-- a dog and two cats. She also found two hand-painted angels her mother made had survived the destruction.

Across the street, Ronna Steele crawled out of the rubble of a nearly upside-down garage, dragging a bicycle.

She said she and another person were inside that garage fixing her bike when the tornado uprooted the entire building and threw it on its side.

Steele returned on Saturday to retrieve her bike and look at the damage.

"I don't see how we made it out, looking at that," she said. "I just can't believe we didn't get hurt, I can't believe that we didn't. That's amazing. I don't know how that's possible"

Next door, Paul Hulet unlocked his door and stepped inside. Like everyone else on the block, he and his family returned Saturday for the first time to take in the scene of wreckage.

Glass shards litter his entire living room. A piece of his sprinkler system from his lawn somehow ended up inside on the carpet. His wife's piano-- one of their most beloved possessions-- is completely trashed.

They may not be able to move back in for a while, but he's keeping his spirits up.

"We survived," he said, adding, "Now, we just got to put everything back together."