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Months later, sinkhole's aftermath lingers for family

For some folks, the 25- by 30-foot sinkhole that opened on Robmar Road in Dunedin last February was a bizarre sight that piqued their curiosity.

For Susan and Scot Conrad it was a vivid reminder of how much their family's lives have changed since the new year.

"To see that was pretty creepy," Susan recalled.

On Jan. 2, a sinkhole 20 feet by 10 feet split open under their home at 1213 Sheridan Road, near the bedroom of their two sons, Joshua, 7, and Isaac, 13 months old.

In a matter of minutes, their lives were in total chaos.

Fearing further damage, city officials immediately declared their home of 12 years uninhabitable.

The Conrads were now faced with the prospect of finding a place to live while having to remove and store their furniture.

The family stayed with a neighbor before moving in with Scot's parents in Dunedin as they waited for a settlement from their insurance company.

They also had to calm the fears of their two young children who were frightened by the experience.

The situation has taken its toll on the entire family, especially Joshua, who is having a difficult time coping with the constant changes in his surroundings.

Joshua's parents also had to adjust.

Everyday activities that Scot said they once took for granted, such as doing the laundry or preparing dinner, now had to be scheduled to fit in with the schedule of Scot's parents.

But in recent weeks, things have gotten better for the Conrads.

The couple sold their home to a contractor, they got a settlement from the insurance company and they made a down payment on a four-bedroom house in the Beckett Lake Estates neighborhood off Sunset Point Road.

"It's all worked out well," Scot said. "It's just been another chapter in our book. It could have been 100 times worse."

"It's been crazy," Susan said.

The Conrads' first challenge was to find a place to live. John Rinker, who lived across the street, offered the family a furnished room in the back of his home. They stayed there for a little more than a month before moving in with Scot's parents in mid-February.

They were then faced with settling their insurance claim. Susan said it took three weeks for geologists to declare the damage a sinkhole and another three weeks for their insurance company to settle.

Susan said the family did not have disaster coverage but their policy included provisions that allowed them to collect a settlement after deciding they did not want to return there. The family declined to discuss the settlement amount.

The next step was selling their home. The Conrads had just completed a remodeling effort that included a new roof, carpet, floors and cabinets when the sinkhole opened.

The home, which was appraised at $90,000 before the sinkhole, was put up for sale in February. Susan said 22 people inquired about the property in less than a week.

"We were surprised there was that much activity," she said.

The couple sold the home to a contractor for $23,000.

"It looks worse than it is," said Steve Tsetsekas, who bought the 1,600-square foot, yellow wood-frame, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home.

"It's nothing I'm afraid of," said Tsetsekas, who plans to live there. "It's a good home and for the price, I couldn't go wrong."

Next for the Conrads was the search for a new home.

Susan had her eye on a home in Clearwater but it was too expensive. The couple focused their sights on the four-bedroom place with a pool near a lake.

Their scheduled moving date is June 11.

The couple has tried to stay patient while staying with Scot's parents but the wait has been the most difficult for Joshua, who turned 7 on Wednesday.

"June is forever for a child to not have his toys and computer and to have two sets of rules," Susan said. "I've had to learn new ways to nurture him and be there for him."

The situation has been a learning experience. Susan and Joshua have gone to the local library to learn more about sinkholes.

While there is no way to determine if a home is absolutely sinkhole-proof, the Conrads feel confident about their future home after learning it sits in an area that has never had a sinkhole.

The Conrads say the experience has strengthened their religious faith and helped them become emotionally stronger.

"We've been really tested and challenged," Susan said. "In the end, it's not what happened. It's how you handle it."