A reported attack on several electrical substations in North Carolina has left over 40,000 customers without power in Moore County.
Local authorities are investigating the incident that began Saturday night — approximately 70 miles southwest of Raleigh — as a criminal act.
“Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields reports that the mass power outage across the county is being investigated as a criminal occurrence,” the Moore County Sheriff Department’s Facebook post said.
“Just after 7 pm on Saturday evening, December 3, 2022, several different communities across Moore County began experiencing power outages,” it added. “As utility companies began responding to the different substations, evidence was discovered that indicated that intentional vandalism had occurred at multiple sites.”
The number of people without power included 60% of the county, leading officials to declare a state of emergency. The county has also declared a 9 p.m. Eastern Time curfew. Schools are closed on Monday.
A press conference held on Sunday afternoon noted that firearms were used to shoot and damage equipment at two substations.
“The NC Department of Public Safety is working with our local and federal law enforcement partners and will provide the appropriate state resources needed to assist in this investigation,” North Caroline Department of Public Safety Secretary Eddie Buffaloe, Jr. said during the press conference, according to WSOC-TV.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) tweeted concerning the issue after talking with leaders at Duke Energy, the area’s power company.
“I appreciate the swift response from local and state emergency responders in Moore County to protect public safety and work with Duke Energy to restore power,” he wrote.
I appreciate the swift response from local and state emergency responders in Moore County to protect public safety and work with Duke Energy to restore power. (1/3)
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) December 4, 2022
“An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” Cooper added. “Moore County has strong, vibrant communities and the state will continue to provide transportation and public safety assistance.”
Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said in a statement to KATV-TV that the company experienced “multiple equipment failures” at substations. The power company was “investigating signs of potential vandalism related to the outages,” according to the statement. Power may be out in some areas until at least Monday, according to the latest updates.
US Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC), whose district includes Moore County, released a statement on Sunday regarding the attacks.
“Last night, unknown individuals vandalized at least two substations in Moore County with criminal intent,” he wrote. “Motive for this crime remains unknown. Many Moore County residents remain without power. I want to thank Sheriff Ronnie Fields and all local law enforcement as well as the SBI and FBI for their quick action to respond to the incident. I have also been in contact with Duke Energy and know they are working on all options to restore power as quickly as possible.”
The congressman’s statement said the Southern Pines Police Department has opened its community room to the public for charging electronic devices.
The outage also impacted Moore Regional Hospital, forcing the facility to switch to generator power, The News & Observer reported.
“The Moore campus is safely operating on backup generator power and we have not experienced any issues or concerns,” spokesperson Gretchen Kelly said, according to the outlet.
A previous version of this story reported that the power outages occurred in Monroe County. The power outages affected Moore County.