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North Carolina power outages could last days after shootings


CARTHAGE, North Carolina –

Tens of thousands of people have prepared for days without power in a North Carolina county where authorities say two electrical substations were brought down by one or more people with apparent criminal intent.

On Monday, across Moore County, southwest of Raleigh, businesses handed out free food or coffee, temporary stop signs were erected at intersections where traffic lights went out, and businesses without the Internet carried out cash transactions. A local business 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 holidaymakers. Schools in the county were also closed and a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. was put in place.

Meanwhile, federal, state and local authorities were undertaking a massive investigation into what is described as a serious attack on critical infrastructure. Utility officials said it could take until Thursday to restore all power.

“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,” Governor Roy Cooper wrote on Twitter.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said Sunday authorities have not determined a motive. He said someone pulled over, broke through the substation doors and opened fire on the substations. The Southern Pines Pilot newspaper reported that a wooden post supporting a gate had been broken off at one of the substations and lay in an access road Sunday morning.

He also said substations were targeted: “It was no accident.”

Fields said law enforcement was securing substations and businesses overnight.

“We’ll have people there tonight 24 hours a day,” Fields said.

According to poweroutage.us, about 35,000 electricity customers across the county were without power late Monday morning, down several thousand from the peak in outages. Temperatures fell below freezing early Monday, and lows in the 40s were again expected 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 leads a team of nine volunteers, said many others stopped for food, warmth or to charge their devices.

“If you don’t have electricity, you probably don’t have heat, so with the onset of winter weather, it’s a nice place to be,” Harris said.

Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said Sunday that several pieces of equipment were damaged and will need to be replaced. He said while the company tried to restore power as quickly as possible, he prepared customers for the potential for multi-day outages.

“We are looking at a fairly sophisticated repair with fairly large equipment, so we want the citizens of the city to be prepared that it will be a multi-day restoration for most customers, possibly extending up to ‘see you Thursday,” Brooks told the news. conference.

The county of about 100,000 people is about an hour’s drive southwest of Raleigh and is known for its golf courses in Pinehurst and other communities.

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

As they have done during the pandemic, businesses that can’t open or lack foot traffic are getting creative with online sales. Some hardware stores and other stores are 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 on Sunday.

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

She said residents of the low-lying area not far from the coast are used to summer weather emergencies such as hurricanes. But it’s different, Parsons said: “It’s weirdly weird.”

Andrew Wilkins, a conservation advocate who grew up in Moore County, was driving Saturday night from Washington to his parents’ small farm in Whispering Pines when he noticed the streetlights were out in Carthage. It arrived on a “black street” and little information on the cause or extent of the outage.

“When the electricity went out, the flow of information went out too,” Wilkins told The Associated Press.

He spent the weekend helping his parents hook up a generator to their well to get fresh drinking water and getting them ready for cold nights without heating. Local grocery stores, such as Food Lion and Harris Teeter, handed out drinks, ice and pantry items to those who lost power, he said.

“Their home, like many rural homes, depends on a well for fresh, clean water, and it has electricity,” Wilkins said. “So when the electricity went out, the well stopped working, and when the well stops working, we slowly lose pressure until we completely lose water. People are going to really feel the pinch of it all as it goes.”

Wilkins described Southern Pines as a “tight” and “vibrant” community of military families, farmers and small business owners who went out of their way to support each other during power outages. His family’s neighbours, he said, are storing refrigerated medicine for a local pharmacy that has lost power.

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Hannah Schoenbaum is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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