North Carolina county declares state of emergency after ‘deliberate’ attack causes widespread power outage

Moore County, North Carolina has declared a state of emergency as power outages continue after a “deliberate” attack over the weekend in which gunfire damaged two substations. The attack left about 45,000 people without power in North Carolina.

Under the state of emergency, a curfew is in place from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night, and county residents are encouraged to conserve fuel.

Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Duke Energy, said Monday the company has restored power to about 7,000 customers. About 38,000 people remain without power, and Brooks said it’s likely full restoration won’t happen until Wednesday or Thursday. In a press release shared earlier today, Duke Energy General Manager Jason Hollifield said “the damage is irreparable in some areas.”

“It leaves us with no choice but to replace large pieces of equipment – which is not an easy or quick task,” Hollifield said.

The outage also knocked out the area’s sewage pumps and schools in the county were closed. Traffic lights are also off. Emergency shelters have been opened to the public.

In Carthage, the unheated home of residents Steve and Meg Wilkins plummeted to 55 degrees.

“That’s not what I wanted to do today, last night or the day before,” Steve Wilkins said. “Fix the power cords. Eat cold ham.”

The power outages were first reported to police on Saturday, Dec. 3, shortly after 7 p.m., according to Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields. When utility companies responded to substations, “evidence was uncovered indicating intentional vandalism had occurred at multiple sites,” Fields said Sunday.

Moore County Power Plant Outage
One of Moore County’s power plants.

The Pilot Newspaper, Southern Pines


At a Sunday afternoon news conference, Fields said the damage was caused by gunfire. Fields said the scene was the same at both sites, calling the attacks “targeted” and carried out by one or more people who “knew exactly what they were doing”.

No motive was provided for the attack, which is being investigated as a criminal act. At his Sunday press conference, Fields could not say whether the incident rose to the level of domestic terrorism.

On Monday afternoon, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas addressed the situation, saying the attack “appears to have been deliberate.”

“We are working with energy companies in local communities to address the situation that is affecting electricity reaching homes in targeted neighborhoods,” Mayorkas said. “The question is, is this an act of malfeasance or something else? Early evidence suggests it was deliberate. And the investigation is ongoing.”

The Charlotte, North Carolina office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking into the attack. On Sunday, the FBI office told CBS News it was “investigating willful damage to electrical installations” in the area, but declined to comment further as the investigation was ongoing.

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Signage at one of the power stations.

The Pilot Newspaper, Southern Pines


On Monday afternoon, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called the attack a “criminal act” during a press conference.

“This was an intentional attack that caused significant harm to people,” Cooper said.

In January, a Department of Homeland Security bulletin, obtained by CBS News, warned that domestic violent extremists “have developed credible and specific plans to attack electrical infrastructure since at least 2020, identifying the electrical grid as a particular target. attractive”. But DHS has not released any statements linking the current situation in Moore County to extremism.

The United States has approximately 55,000 substations. Earlier this year”60 minutes‘ reported how vulnerable they are often.

“There are very few substations that need to be taken down in the entire United States to knock out the entire grid,” Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told the ’60 Minutes’ correspondent. Bill Whittaker.

CBS News’ Mark Strassmann and Nicole Sganga contributed reporting.

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