Hugo's young tornado victim takes a big step toward recovery

Annika Prindle, 4, suffered significant injuries after her home was destroyed in Sunday's tornado, but has begun breathing on her own. Her 2-year-old brother, Nathaniel, was killed.

Hugo preschooler Annika Prindle, who loves dancing and wants to be a ballerina, inched forward in an expected long recovery Thursday when she started breathing on her own.

Doctors are guarded in their expectations for the 4-year-old girl who was critically injured in Sunday's tornado, said an uncle, Todd Hanson. Annika's 2-year-old brother, Nathaniel, was killed.

"The injuries we're seeing are pretty significant," Hanson said of Annika, whom he described as "just so precious."

Services for Nathaniel will be 3 p.m. Monday at Eagle Brook Church in White Bear Lake, with visitation beginning at 2 p.m. Visitation also will be held at the church Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m.

"I want people to understand what an incredible family this is," Hanson said. "Nate would light up a room when he came in."

The children's father, Jerry, a software engineer, is recovering from hip surgery. Their mother, Christy, a speech pathologist, has been spending time with her daughter at Gillette Children's Hospital and with her husband at Regions Hospital.

Hanson said the Prindles told him they were on the main level of their house at 15755 Fenway Ave. N. when they saw or heard the tornado approaching. The family remembers being near the top of the basement stairs when the tornado tore into the house, he said.

"The house basically went from front to back," Hanson said. "It sounds like it happened so fast."

Annika found in the rubble

Rescuers found Nathaniel in a pond behind the house. They couldn't revive him. Annika was found in the rubble in the back yard and was resuscitated.

Jerry and Christy, Hanson said, are recalling both fond family memories and tragic moments as they grieve. "There are moments of laughter and moments of tears," he said.

Building permits issued

In other Hugo news:

• Gas and electricity have been restored to all homes.

• The Department of Natural Resources has been working to clean the debris from Lake Oneka.

• City officials will begin issuing building permits again Monday.

• The city will no longer be holding town meetings every night to discuss storm issues. The next town meeting will be held in conjunction with the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday.

Outpouring of volunteers

• Between 800 and 1,000 volunteers are expected for Saturday's big clean-up event. Volunteers will meet at the Washington County Service Center in Forest Lake, starting at 8 a.m. and are asked to enter the city via I-35E to reduce traffic congestion near Hugo.

• Tetanus shots will be provided Saturday at the Washington County Service Center, and Hugo city officials are asking all volunteers to have up-to-date shots.

kgiles@startribune.com • 651-298-1554 ashah@startribune.com • 651-298-1550

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