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NISLAND | In addition to suffering extreme damage to their roofs, a shed and expensive farm equipment to giant hail stones that fell last week, the Mickelson family is still reeling from a more emotional and heart-wrenching loss.

The hail that was as large as softballs crashed down upon their farm near Nisland and directly killed or led to the death of around 30 head of lambs and 10 ewes.

The loss of the animals has also taken a huge financial toll, since the family operation run by Jim Mickelson Sr., Jim Mickelson Jr. and his wife, Deanna, had planned to take the lambs to the fattened stage.

Earlier this week, Jim Jr. said he had not yet been able to get out in the pasture to check the livestock he had there.

"There may be more dead out there that drifted in the wind and rain," he said. Many of those that perished were in the small lot just south of the couple's home.

They also had major loss to buildings and vehicles, and two center pivot irrigation systems both went down in the winds. One unit, just east of the house, looked like twisted spaghetti pieces, while another, further south across a field, lost five sections.

During the June 19 storm that ravaged much of Butte and Meade counties, which left windows and roofs damaged across the region, the family huddled in the closet next to the bathroom and prayed.

"The morning light did not make things look any better," Deanna said of the day after the storm had passed.

"Major destruction (was everywhere); glass, shingles, steel, all throughout our yard," she said. "So many things broken."

Jim Jr. said hunkering down was all they could do. Their initial inspection showed that the laundry room on the north side of the house was destroyed, and their roofs had giant holes in them. But worst of all was the loss of many lambs and ewes which either died outright or were so badly injured they succumbed or had to be put down.

Jim Jr. said one lamb was hit so hard by the hail it literally ripped its stomach open, and some lambs were paralyzed in the hind quarters so they could only sit up but couldn’t move their back legs. 

The couple waited as long as possible, hoping that some of the injured would recover. They said it was so excrutiating to watch them suffer, many with paralyzed legs or broken limbs. Finally, on Tuesday morning, Jim Jr. made the hard decision to put the rest of the injured down.

Across their property, a stack of aluminum irrigation pipe looked like a giant pick-up-sticks game, according to Deanna. There was a lot of hard work and recovery ahead for the couple, but they had many friends stop to help and one aunt brought in a meal for the family.

Mickelson also lost crops, including both corn and soybeans. The livestock was not insured and will be the biggest loss. And trying to start over at this point in the game means crops will be late and may have to be replaced with other varieties.

This couple and many other folks around the immediate area surrounding Nisland will not quickly rebound from this intense storm. However, they are hardy folks who have a strong will to succeed.

"Just drink another cup of coffee and head back out," said Deanna of the task that lay ahead.

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— Journal photographer Sean Ryan contributed to this report.

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