FBI investigating power grid attack in Moore County, sheriff says – WSOC TV

MOORE COUNTY, NC — The FBI is investigating Moore County after the power grid was “intentionally attacked,” causing a major outage.

The Moore County Sheriff’s Office confirmed those details at a news conference Sunday night.

More than 32,000 people in Moore County are still without power. The outages began just after 7 p.m. Saturday night in area communities, according to Sheriff Ronnie Fields.

Sheriff Fields said firearms were used to shoot and disable equipment at two substations in Moore County.

Power could be out until Thursday, according to the sheriff’s office and Duke Energy officials. Officials added that repairs will need to be sophisticated due to the state of damage to the substations.

FBI investigation

At the press conference, deputies said the FBI was involved in the investigation, along with the State Bureau of Investigation.

“The North Carolina Department of Public Safety is working with our local and federal law enforcement partners and will provide appropriate state resources as needed to assist in this investigation,” NCDPS Secretary Eddie M. Buffaloe, Jr.

When asked if it was domestic terrorism, Sheriff Fields said he could not say whether or not it was domestic terrorism, saying he would let the feds determine that. . But he added that it was absolutely intentional and the perpetrators knew what they were doing.

Fields also said he couldn’t comment on the motivation because no group has yet claimed responsibility.

Deputies also announced that a curfew will be in place for Moore County through this week. It starts at 9 p.m. and will continue until 5 a.m. each day.

The Moore County Sports Complex on Hillcrest Park will serve as the shelter. Moore County schools will be closed Monday, according to the sheriff’s office.

“North Carolina Emergency Management is working with local and state agencies to provide the necessary resources to ensure the safety of Moore County residents affected by the power outage,” said Will Ray, director of North Carolina Emergency Management.

Deputies said they were actively looking for people believed to be responsible for the outage.

Security expert and former FBI Deputy Director Chris Swecker told Channel 9 what an investigation like this would look like. He said the FBI steps in whenever there is an attack on critical infrastructure. Channel 9’s Genevieve Curtis asked what it would take for the case to rise to the level of domestic terrorism.

“It would have to be an articulation of motivation,” Swecker said. “You would have to have a suspect to know if it’s politically motivated. Terrorism is committing acts of violence to intimidate the public in order to influence political change, broadly defined.

(PHOTOS: Moore County Substation Attacks)

Swecker said it will be an extensive investigation and expects to see a suspect arrive fairly quickly.

Federal government warned of power grid attacks

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security warned that attacks on the power grid were imminent. The DOJ report said domestic terrorists had been specifically plotting “physical attacks” on power grids in the United States since 2010, and that the threats were credible.

That’s exactly what happened in Moore County this weekend, and the question is whether Duke Energy heeded that warning and put in place preventative infrastructure.

While North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has said the state and country are focused on preventing cyberattacks, data shows that physical attacks on power grids pose the biggest threat nationally.

Sheriff Fields said Monday that the person or persons who carried out the attack had been trained.

“The person who caused the damage knew exactly what they were doing to cause the damage, which caused the outage they caused,” Fields said.

Swecker asked Curtis if the attack exposed any vulnerabilities in our power grid as it relates to our national security.

“I used to run this office at the FBI and we were always concerned about our power grid, that a lot of our critical infrastructure, our communications, our financial banks, all of that exists here in Charlotte,” Swecker said. “Military, outside of Charlotte, when you see a target like this, you wonder if we’ve taken our eyes off the ball here in terms of hardening these targets, because you have to wonder how somebody got approached so closely, to put so many in the dark.”

Officials did not share details Monday about the security measures required by the state and federal government for those power grids.

State reaction

A Duke Energy spokesperson released the following statement early Sunday regarding the outages saying:

“We have experienced several equipment outages affecting Moore County substations resulting in approximately 45,000 customers currently without power. There are indications that vandalism was a cause of the outages, and we are working with local, state and federal agencies throughout their ongoing investigation into this incident.

“We are pursuing multiple repair paths to restore as many customers as possible, as quickly and safely as possible. This is a major local outage affecting nearly all customers in Moore County, and customers should be prepared for an extended outage that could last beyond today and into Thursday for many. clients. We will update restoration time estimates as we receive additional information. We integrate multiple layers of security to quickly identify and respond to threats. »

Governor Roy Cooper weighed in on the situation saying:

“I appreciate the quick response of local and state emergency responders in Moore County to protect public safety and work with Duke Energy to restore power,” Governor Cooper said. “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. Moore County has strong communities and dynamic and the state will continue to provide transportation and public safety assistance.

Harris Teeter announced that it will provide free ice packs to community members affected by the power outage in Moore County.

The grocery store said it will provide this service at every location in Moore County while supplies last.

“He loses a lot of business”

Channel 9’s Glenn Counts traveled to Carthage to speak with residents, business owners and officials about how they are coping with the sudden and prolonged power outage.

The Muse family, owners of a local restaurant, prepare to take a big hit from the outage.

“He’s losing a lot of business and he’s losing a lot of groceries, his food – he’s going to have to throw it away because it might be Thursday before we get the power back. Me personally, I’m working there with him , I help her, so now I’m out of work,” employee Matthew Muse said.

The FBI is investigating whether this power outage is considered an act of domestic terrorism.

At a news conference on Sunday, Duke Energy said it was looking at ways to partially restore power to some residents. No promises were made due to the size of the equipment to be repaired.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

(WATCH BELOW: State of emergency declared, FBI investigating power grid attack in Moore County, sheriff says)

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