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North Carolina power outages caused by gunfire at substations

Dec. 4, 2022 Updated Sun., Dec. 4, 2022 at 8:24 p.m.

Line crews gathered at staging areas across the region awaiting possible power outages in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Jan. 22, 2016.  (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
Line crews gathered at staging areas across the region awaiting possible power outages in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Jan. 22, 2016. (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
By April Rubin, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Matt Stevens New York Times

About 45,000 people in a central North Carolina county remained without electricity Sunday afternoon after two electric substations were damaged by gunfire the night before in what officials called an “intentional” attack.

The outages across Moore County, roughly 90 miles east of Charlotte, began just after 7 p.m. Saturday, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said. Officials said the power could be out until as late as Thursday.

At a news conference Sunday, the Moore County sheriff, Ronnie Fields, said the attack appeared targeted, but did not provide further details on a motive or suspect. The FBI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation were also looking into the attack, he said.

The county declared a state of emergency Sunday afternoon, including a curfew starting at 9 p.m. Sunday lasting to 5 a.m. Monday. State Sen. Tom McInnis cited below-freezing temperatures and dark roads for the need for the curfew.

“It is going to be very, very, very dark, and it’s going to be chilly tonight,” he said at the news conference.

Responding to questions about whether the vandalism was related to a drag show in the area that had faced backlash, Fields said he was unaware of any connection, but that authorities were investigating all possibilities.

Lauren Mathers, executive director of Sandhills PRIDE, the LGBTQ organization that produced the show, said that while the group had received violent threats leading up to the event, none indicated any kind of planned attack on the region’s power grid.

“We did not receive any specific threats that would lead me to be able to say to you, there’s a correlation,” Mathers said Sunday.

She said the show, which was held Saturday evening at an old movie theater in Southern Pines, about 80 miles southwest of Raleigh, was about 40 minutes in when the power suddenly went out.

The show’s organizers soon called it off to ensure everyone’s safety, she said.

Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy Corp., which provides power to thousands of businesses and homes in the region, said the damage to the station was “intentional” and would require extensive repairs that could last several days.

“Unlike, perhaps, a storm where you can go in and reroute power somewhere else, that was not an option in this case,” Brooks said, adding that the repairs could extend as far as Thursday.

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