PENSACOLA, Fla. – Power lines are the same as everything else when there's no light — invisible.
What should be an easy 22 miles from the town of Milton in the next county over to downtown Pensacola took more than an hour and a half Friday evening, partly because of residents making their way back in droves and partly because of the difficulty and necessity of slow driving in a darkened city.
Sheriff's officials said they're not vigorously enforcing the curfew because the stressed-out evacuees so desperately want to see what happened to their homes.
But they're warning motorists that driving is dangerous. Many roads are blocked by downed trees. Street signs were blown away; landmarks were altered. And there are thousands of power lines, most of them powerless but not all, strewn across and alongside streets.
At night, it's not the power lines on the streets that are so dangerous. It's the ones still hanging from poles, dangling low across the road like a trip wire for some kind of urban warfare trap.
Driver can't see them unless someone has — probably at some danger to themselves — tied a colored rag to the wire that shows up under headlights.
The streets were nearly deserted late Friday.
There were vehicles that are supposed to be on the road: power trucks with their rotating yellow lights and lots of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.
A few people were out walking. They showed up as weird specks of light moving through the street, the only thing visible about them the glow from their flashlights.
A few houses had tiki torches or other clever light sources illuminating the yard.
There was one area — only a couple of square blocks — where there was power, immediately noticeable because of the only working stop light and street lights for miles.
It was also noticeable because of the glow of the Golden Arches of McDonalds, one of the few businesses open Friday in Pensacola. People were lined up at the drive-thru — the only way the restaurant was serving — seeking out a little bit of food and some normality in an otherwise dark place.