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Daily Glean: The horror of Hugo

By David Brauer | Tuesday, May 27, 2008 In Tuesday’s local news roundup, the aching details emerge from the Hugo tornado disaster; we have the coverage highlights.

Day Two of the Hugo tornado tragedy dominates local coverage. Here’s a rundown of the relevant topics:

The fatality. It’s pretty awful; 2-year-old Nathaniel Prindle was blown out of his house into a pond, the Strib reports. The PiPress says Nathaniel wasn’t breathing when he was found; a neighbor had to turn the mother, Christina Prindle, away from the scene so she wouldn’t see her son’s body. His badly injured 4-year-old sister, Annika, was pulled from the home’s rubble. Despite the smell of gas, neighbors plunged in to save the family, and one, Marvin Miller, found the boy, the Strib’s Joy Powell writes.

More on the family: Annika remains in critical condition, the father, Gerald Prindle has a broken leg, and Christina Prindle has severe facial lacerations, the PiPress notes. The wind blew her atop Annika. WCCO’s Jason DeRusha says the Prindle house was hit head-on and blown 30 feet back into the pond.

Construction/design problems? Christina tells the PiPress that the house “accordioned backward,” possibly enabled by an open attached garage door. The Strib’s Bill McAuliffe writes that storm assessors say houses “had been made vulnerable by having attached garages facing the wind or walk-out basements away from the wind, or questionable ways of anchoring walls to the foundations.” Are they suggesting the houses would’ve stood otherwise? 

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Other survivors. KARE’s Scott Seroka talks to a man who couldn’t get into his house and ended up clinging to some corner siding as the tornado whipped past. “He has a deep bruise on his calf where a 2×4 smacked his leg, but otherwise, survived a tornado while the house around him was decimated,” Seroka says.

The scope. In addition to the death, 17 people were treated at hospitals and 32 at an elementary school, the PiPress calculates. The Strib says 50 Hugo homes were destroyed and 220 were damaged, including 61 with non-tornado causes such as hail. The paper estimates $25 million in lost personal property. The PiPress reports that there’s probably not enough public-infrastructure damage to qualify for FEMA help. One Coon Rapids house was pushed off its foundation.

The cause. The Strib quotes experts saying it was two tornadoes — a Coon Rapids twister had winds of 86 to 110 miles per hour, while the more powerful Hugo version was between 136 to 165 miles per hour. One Hugo resident said the funnel was 200 feet wide, according to the Hugo Citizen newspaper. WCCO has the best resident video; a KSTP producer who lives in Hugo also taped the during-and-after.

The pictures: Courtesy of MPR’s Bob Collins, some compelling damage photos from Hugo residents, via the Hugo Citizen.

In other news …

The Strib’s Kevin Diaz chronicles “leadership PACs,” relatively unregulated “petty cash funds” that let big donors effectively double contributions to favored pols. Such PACs give to other candidates, turning fellow pols into special interests. However, only about a third of Norm Coleman’s and Amy Klobuchar’s funds are used that way; ditto Al Franken’s. Most cash goes to management and events, and “in Coleman’s case, polling.” Polling? Funds aren’t supposed to be spent on a member’s own campaign, but Diaz doesn’t explain that last one.

The Strib misses a chance to localize an interesting AP story on military bullets that are too small to “bring down an enemy decisively, and that puts troops at risk.” No one suggests the M855 rounds are poorly manufactured, just poorly deployed, but who operates the Army plant that makes the M855? You’d never know from the story; it’s Eden Prairie’s own Alliant Techsystems.

Remember the Minneapolis Planetarium? It’s sucking solar wind, says the Star Tribune’s Steve Brandt. The Planetarium’s former sponsor, the Minneapolis Library Board, no longer exists, and its successor, the Hennepin County Board, is “wary” of responsibility for the $39 million project. There’s $22 million in state bonding, but fundraisers want $250,000 in county dough to find $17 million in private cash. Augsburg College may want a downsized facility for its downtown campus, but it wouldn’t be much of an attraction.

Today’s hot button: Should freedom-loving Richfieldians be able to park their RVs in their own driveways? The Strib’s Herón Márquez Estrada writes that Richfield might become one of a “few” cities to ban the unsightly 24-foot-long metal belugas. (Note: That’s almost as long as my house is wide.) Bloomington makes you get neighbors’ permission. Richfield gets about a dozen complaints per year. Fun fact: There’s a Supreme Court decision saying you can’t ban RV parking solely for aesthetics.

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But that’s not even today’s talker. The PiPress’s Shannon Prather unearths the tale of an Oak Park Heights inmate who “choreographed pornography sessions involving a developmentally disabled teenage girl.” Convicted killer Joseph Soltis persuaded one woman to have sex with the girl and another woman to photograph it and “gave orders while it was happening.” A juror who helped convict Soltis on sex charges says the system should restrict unlimited phone calling.

The Downtown Journal’s Michelle Bruch scores an interview with one of the guys accused of trying to parachute off a riverfront condo tower. Charges were dropped against Joe Johnson, but he says last month’s arrest at the Pinnacle tower was the first time he’d been caught. He jumps off  downtown skyscrapers monthly, he claims. Technically, so-called BASE jumping isn’t illegal here, the story says. The Foshay and IDS towers are out, but Riverside Plaza and the under-construction Target tower are cool. Lots of how-to.

Nort spews: The Twins had Memorial Day off, which just seems wrong.