The night is colored by storm clouds, and the streets have been stilled by caution.
It is nearing midnight on the third day of Tropical Storm Debby's grip on Tampa Bay, and certain neighborhoods in Pasco County have the eerie feel of a post-apocalyptic thriller.
Roads are knee-deep in water, driveways are vacant and houses are darkened. The only sign of life at this moment is the flashing lights of Pasco Sheriff's Office patrol cars that have sealed the entrances and exits of a subdivision off Trouble Creek Road.
There has been a report of possible looting in the neighborhood and deputies have arrived en masse. Trucks and SUVs have been summoned to drive deeper into the flooded streets, and a K-9 unit is on the ground sniffing for trouble.
This is the backdrop in a state of emergency. This is the reality that most of us will undoubtedly miss.
We may clear a few tree branches from the yard, but we never understand the upheaval of a flooded mobile home park. We may complain about rerouted traffic, but rarely stop to think of those stuck in evacuation shelters. We see evidence of destruction on television, and aimlessly change the channel a few minutes later.
From the seat of a patrol car, the view is different. Creeping through abandoned blocks in the middle of the night, the story becomes all too real. Neighborhoods around here are divided into zones by the Sheriff's Office and typically have no more than one or two deputies per area on any given overnight shift.
On Tuesday night, the computer in Deputy Jimmy Berberich's car shows a cluster of patrol cars in the heart of the evacuation zone between Plathe Road and Mitchell Ranch Road in western Pasco. Is it 30 cars? Forty? Fifty? The correct answer: Just enough.
For the idea is to have enough deputies on the ground to discourage looters. To reassure residents. To be prepared for any emergency rising waters may create.
So every available deputy has been summoned on their day off to work a 12-hour shift. Police officers from neighboring cities have been recruited to help, and a command post has been set up in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
There is a bulletin out of Hudson of three armed men in a white Nissan. In Holiday, a man has been accused of punching a 13-year-old in the face. Nearby is a domestic violence report of a woman head-butting her boyfriend.
"We'll see a lot of that,'' Berberich says. "Instead of going to the bar, people are stuck drinking at home with each other tonight.''
The streets themselves are mostly quiet. There are a handful of inmates in their striped jail uniforms filling sandbags under the watchful eyes of detention officers. Bored teenagers cut through the flood on their bikes.
There is driver after driver trying to talk their way into a condominium complex, but since they are unable to provide an address, a name or a reason, a deputy assumes there is a drug operation nearby and turns them away.
By 2:15 a.m., the calls have slowed. Fears of rampant looting have passed. The rain comes and goes, but the floodwaters appear to be receding.
It seems the worst is behind us at this point, and that is definitely worth celebrating. It also seems most of us were very fortunate this time around, and maybe that should be sobering.