Three people, two dogs ride out Hurricane Harvey in 'pod'

HOLIDAY BEACH, Texas — They called her crazy.

Linda Castor bought an orange, spherical pod that looked like a flying saucer from the parking lot of the Corpus Christi Trade Center about seven years ago.

"They said 'Why would anyone put a big ugly thing like that in their backyard?'" Castor, 70, said next to her destroyed aluminum shed. "But this is why."

Three people and two dogs stayed inside the pod, which is larger than the two currently located in front of the trade center, when Hurricane Harvey made its second landfall with 130 mph winds in Aransas County on Aug. 26.

With the exception of a few leaks and a strong shudder when the shed started flying apart and fell on the roof, the structure did not move during the first hours of the storm.

"I just kept my eyes closed," she remembered.

According to a 2005 Caller-Times article, the pod originally was a survival capsule on an offshore drilling platform. Its purpose was to escape the danger of fire, explosion or a sinking platform.

Castor was told when she bought it, the pod could hold up to 57 people. But even with only three people inside, it was cramped.

It has no air-conditioning, but Castor made sure it was stocked with food and water to ride out the storm.

On the side of the pod, Linda inscribed: "The Ark — Hurricane Survival Capsule. They laughed at Noah," and painted seaside scenes and pictures of palm trees.

"It wasn't comfortable, but we survived," she said.

Aransas County officials estimate about half of the county's residents did not evacuate before Harvey made landfall even though a mandatory evacuation was called.

Castor did not want to evacuate. She felt the pod was safer than getting on the highway during a major evacuation.

In 2005, 100 people died in the Houston area during a massive evacuation effort before Hurricane Rita made landfall in Southeast Texas. The deaths are contributed to a bus fire, traffic accidents and heat stroke.

"I've heard horror stories of evacuations where people get stuck on the highways during the storm, so I felt this was the safest," she said. "It saved the three of us, I knew it would."

Davonn Phothiboupha, an Iowa native who moved to Rockport in December, also survived the storm inside Castor's $5,000 second-hand buy.

Two days before the storm hit, he was strumming a guitar with a friend at the Beachfront Pavilion on Rockport Beach.

"I told the Lord, 'Well Lord, you brought me here to Rockport, now a hurricane's coming. I don't want to leave,' " Phothiboupha said. "I said 'you're in control, so if you want me to go somewhere else, you have to lead me somewhere else.'"

A woman he met the week before asked him if he had a place to go for the hurricane and offered him a spot in her friend's "hurricane pod." Phothiboupha took that as God leading him to shelter.

"He found a way to keep me safe," Phothiboupha said.

Aransas County Judge Burt Mills said initial assessments showed that at least 35 percent of the county's structures were completely destroyed, and more than 80 percent had at least minor damage.

Search-and-rescue missions led to the evacuation of at least 50 people from their destroyed homes.

Will Castor leave Holiday Beach in Harvey's wake? Her house is damaged, including the leveling of the efficiency-sized apartment on her second floor.

"This is where I belong," she said. "I'm not going anywhere."

So far, that attitude has served her well.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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