More than 33,000 people were without power on Monday after two electrical substations in a North Carolina county were damaged by gunfire in what law enforcement officials called an attack ” targeted” that could leave residents without power for days.
A person “opened fire” in the two substations Saturday, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said at a news conference. He did not say how the person got through the doors of either substation, but a photo from The Pilot shows the door of one of the substations on the ground.
The outages began in Carthage, North Carolina, around 7 p.m. Saturday, then spread through much of central and southern Moore County, Fields said. He said power crews and MPs found “extensive damage” to substations.
Fields said the FBI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the attack, but authorities have not determined a motive.
It’s unclear whether there were multiple shooters involved, but Fields said the “person” or “persons” knew “exactly what they were doing.”
“It was targeted; it was not by chance,” he told a press conference on Sunday.
Governor Roy Cooper said on Twitter the state provides resources to investigators and power teams.
“An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious and intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to fully investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” Cooper said.
When asked by reporters if the attack was an attempt to shut down a local drag show that had been the target of threats of violence and calls to cancel the show in recent weeks, Fields said investigators didn’t had found no connection with the show., which was scheduled for Saturday evening around the time the outages began.
“Anything is possible,” he said. “But we weren’t able to tie anything to the drag show.”
On Sunday, authorities declared a state of emergency, implemented a curfew and opened a shelter at a sports complex in Carthage. Tim Locklear, the county’s school superintendent, announced that county schools will be closed on Monday.
On Monday, businesses handed out food or coffee for free, and businesses without internet conducted cash transactions.
Traffic lights were off throughout the department. Drivers viewed intersections as four-way stops, which caused some traffic in places such as downtown Carthage. A constant hum of horns could be heard as people signaled when they needed to go to each non-working traffic light. Many local businesses and restaurants displayed “Closed” signs in windows and had empty parking lots.
The outages could last until Thursday for some customers as crews perform the “sophisticated repair”, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said.
“Unlike perhaps a storm where you can come in and redirect power somewhere else, that wasn’t an option in this case, so the repair needs to be complete; in many cases, some of that equipment will need to be replaced. “Brooks said at the press conference.
The outages caused several crashes, including a four-vehicle crash that injured four people, Southern Pines Deputy Warden and Fire Chief Mike Cameron told The News & Observer.
“The car accident was totally due to the brake lights being off,” he told the outlet, adding that temporary stop signs are being used to help with navigation.
Andrew Wilkins told The Fayetteville Observer he was driving to visit his parents in the village of Whispering Pines when the power went out. He said it was strange to see streetlights, homes and businesses go dark except for a few solar-powered Christmas wreaths.
“You can hear generators running in all directions,” he said.
He said while most residents are focused on the immediate need for power, the community is also experiencing a “huge information blackout” with no Wi-Fi or cell service.
Wilkins said neighbors and businesses help each other, such as a nearby drugstore that ferried medications that needed cold storage to a neighbor’s generator-powered refrigerators.
The county of about 100,000 people is about an hour’s drive southwest of Raleigh.
Contributor: The Fayetteville Observer; The Associated Press
Contact Breaking News reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg