North Carolina Power Outages Could Last Days After Shootings

The gate to the Duke Energy West End substation in Moore County, N.C. on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (John Nagy/The Pilot via AP)

CARTHAGE, N.C. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people braced for days without electricity in a North Carolina county where authorities say two power substations were shot up by one or more people with apparent criminal intent.

Across Moore County southwest of Raleigh on Monday, businesses handed out free food or coffee and businesses without internet conducted transactions in cash. One local economic official described the area known for its golf courses and local pottery as “eerily quiet” at a time of year when businesses are normally full of tourists and holiday shoppers. County schools were closed.

Traffic lights were out throughout the county. Drivers treated intersections as four-way stops, which caused some traffic in places such as downtown Carthage. A consistent hum of honks could be heard as people signaled to each other when they should go at each nonfunctional traffic light. Many local businesses and restaurants displayed “Closed” signs in the windows and had empty parking lots.

Federal, state and local authorities were undertaking a massive investigation of what’s being described as a serious attack on critical infrastructure. Utility officials said it could take until Thursday to restore all power.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said Sunday that authorities have not determined a motivation. He said someone pulled up, breached the substation gates and opened fire at the substations.

He also said the substations were targeted: “It wasn’t random.”

Roughly 35,000 electric customers in the county were without power Monday, down by several thousand from the peak of the outages, according to Temperatures dropped below freezing early Monday, and lows in the 40s were expected again later in the week.

About 20 people spent the night at an emergency shelter at the Moore County Sports Complex in Carthage, said Phil Harris, executive director of the local American Red Cross chapter. Harris, who’s managing a team of nine volunteers, said plenty more have stopped by for food, warmth or to charge their devices.

“If you’ve got no power, you probably don’t have any heat, so with winter weather coming in, it’s a nice place to stay,” Harris said.

Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said Sunday that multiple pieces of equipment were damaged and will have to be replaced. He said while the company is trying to restore power as quickly as possible, he braced customers for the potential of outages lasting days.

“We are looking at a pretty sophisticated repair with some fairly large equipment and so we do want citizens of the town to be prepared that this will be a multiday restoration for most customers, extending potentially as long as Thursday,” Brooks said at the news conference.

The county of approximately 100,000 people lies about an hour’s drive southwest of Raleigh.

The end of year season is one of the busiest times of year for the region’s tourism-dependent economy, said Linda Parsons, president of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce.

As they did during the pandemic, businesses that can’t open or lack foot traffic were getting creative with online sales. Some hardware and other stores are doing cash-only transactions, she said. Other businesses are offering free food to residents without power, such as the Southern Pines Growler, which gave out free coffee and pancakes Sunday.

“Our community has done an excellent job coming together … honestly, it’s quite heartwarming,” she said. “We’re making the best out of a bad situation.”

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