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Moore County: FBI joins investigation into North Carolina power outage caused by ‘deliberate’ attacks on substations as officials work to determine motive and suspect




CNN

With no suspects or motive announced, the FBI joined the investigation North Carolina County Power Outages believed to be caused by “deliberate” and “targeted” attacks on substations that left around 40,000 customers in the dark on Saturday night, prompting a curfew and the declaration of a state of emergency.

A massive outage in Moore County turned into a criminal investigation when responding utility crews found signs of potential equipment vandalism at various locations — including two substations that were damaged by gunfire, according to the Moore County Sheriff’s Office.

“The person or persons who did this knew exactly what they were doing,” Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said during a Sunday press conference. “We have no idea why Moore County.”

Fields said multiple rounds were fired at both substations. “It was targeted, it wasn’t accidental,” he said.

The sheriff did not say whether the criminal activity was domestic terrorism, but noted that “neither group has stepped forward to admit or accept that they are the ones [did] it.”

Authorities announced a mandatory curfew from 9pm to 5am starting Sunday night, with Fields saying the decision was made to protect residents and businesses.

In addition to the FBI, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has joined the investigation, officials said.

More than 33,000 customers were still in the dark across the county Sunday evening, Duke Energy break map shown For some, the outage could stretch into Thursday, officials said, disrupting the lives of tens of thousands.

All schools in the county will be closed on Monday and authorities have opened a shelter running on a generator.

Traffic lights are also down, and while a few stores with generators were able to open their doors, several businesses and churches in Moore County were closed Sunday. CNN affiliate WRAL reported.

“We were just getting over Covid. And now this,” the sheriff said, adding, “It’s going to hurt all of our restaurants and businesses.”

Inside people’s homes it became difficult to keep the cold out.

“We have a six-month-old baby in the house. The heat is over. We’re trying to get heat for her,” Carthage resident Chris Thompson told WRAL.

Cool temperatures, with lows in the 30s, were expected in the area overnight Sunday with highs in the 50s and a chance of rain expected Monday, according to National Weather Service. Moore County is in central North Carolina, about 50 miles northwest of Fayetteville.

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The estimated cost of damage to the substation is in the millions, the sheriff said Sunday.

The damage is extensive and rerouting power is not an option, said Jeff Brooks, chief communications manager for Duke Energy.

Moore County: FBI joins investigation into North Carolina power outage caused by ‘deliberate’ attacks on substations as officials work to determine motive and suspect

“The equipment will have to be replaced,” Brooks said. “We are pursuing multiple recovery paths so that we can recover as many customers as possible as quickly as possible.” Recognizing this, we are looking at a fairly complex repair with quite large equipment.

In addition to the gunshot damage to the substations, a door at one of the locations appeared to have been blown off its hinges, Southern Pines Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Mike Cameron told CNN.

While it’s unclear what motivated the alleged vandalism, the sheriff on Sunday addressed rumors circulating on social media that the attack was an attempt to thwart a local drag show.

Fields said investigators “were unable to connect anything to the drag show” that was scheduled in the town of Southern Pines at 7 p.m. Saturday, around the time the power went out.

Duke Energy workers gather Sunday as they plan how to repair an electrical substation in Carthage, North Carolina.

The county announced a state of emergency to protect residents and property and maintain public services, officials said. A countywide curfew is expected to remain in effect nightly while the state of emergency is in effect.

“It’s going to be very, very dark and it’s going to be chilly tonight and we don’t need to have anybody on the streets and that’s the reason for the curfew,” North Carolina state Sen. Tom McInnis said at a news conference. “Please stay home tonight… the roads are dangerous.”

The emergency order also encourages residents to conserve fuel.

With the streets dark, the area has seen an increase in emergency calls and reports of vehicle accidents because the traffic lights are not working, Cameron told CNN.

People who rely on oxygen have also made emergency calls, he added.

A shelter has been set up at the Moore County Sports Complex and trailers with bathroom and shower facilities are being brought in, Moore County Manager Wayne West said.

As for schools, it’s unclear how long campuses will remain closed. Moore County Superintendent Tim Locklear said decisions on whether to open schools for the rest of the week will be made each day.


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