Two power plants in a North Carolina county were damaged by gunfire in what is being investigated as a criminal act, causing damage that could take days to repair and leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity, authorities said Sunday.
In response to the ongoing power outages, which began just after 7 p.m. local time on Saturday in Moore County, officials declared a state of emergency with a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. Provincial schools will also be closed on Monday.
“An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, willful crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” Governor Roy Cooper wrote on Twitter.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said at a Sunday news conference that authorities have not determined a motivation. He said someone stopped and “opened fire on the substation, same with the other one.”
“No group has come forward to acknowledge or accept that they are the ones who did it,” Fields said. He added that they are “looking at all avenues”.
The sheriff noted that the FBI was working with state investigators to determine who was responsible. He also said “it was targeted.”
“It wasn’t random,” Fields said.
Fields said law enforcement officers provide security at the substations and for businesses at night.
“We’re going to have people around the clock tonight,” Fields said.
According to poweroutage.us, more than 41,000 electricity customers in the province were without power by Sunday afternoon.
With cold temperatures predicted for Sunday night, the county also opened a shelter at a sports complex in Carthage, NC
Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said multiple appliances were damaged and will need to be replaced. He said while the company is trying to restore power as quickly as possible, it is bracing customers for the potential of days outage.
We are responding to outages in Moore County where vandalism knocked out equipment at two substations, knocking out power for approximately 45,000 customers. Crews work 24-hour shifts to make repairs and repairs. restore service to all affected customers. Read more here:https://t.co/Nkxa2LSOtM
“We’re looking at a fairly sophisticated repair with fairly large equipment and so we want the city residents to be prepared that this will be a multi-day restoration for most customers, possibly through Thursday,” Brooks said at the news conference.
Dr. Tim Locklear, the county school superintendent, announced that classes will be canceled on Monday.
“As we move forward, we’ll take it day by day as we make those decisions,” Locklear said.
Law enforcement is investigating this serious incident and Duke is working around the clock to restore service.
The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines, NC, reported that one of its journalists saw a gate to one of the substations damaged and lying in an access road.
“A pole holding up the gate had clearly broken off where it touches the ground. The infrastructure of the substation was badly damaged,” the paper reported.
The county of about 100,000 people is about an hour’s drive southwest of the state capital, Raleigh, and is known for golf resorts in Pinehurst and other communities.