Mass power outage in North Carolina being investigated as ‘criminal occurrence’

U.S.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — About 38,000 homes and businesses were in the dark Saturday night after vandals caused a power outage in North Carolina’s Moore County, officials said.

The utility Duke Energy’s website listed no cause for the outages, but the local sheriff’s office said vandalism at power substations was to blame.

“As utility companies began responding to the different substations, evidence was discovered that indicated that intentional vandalism had occurred at multiple sites,” Moore County Chief Deputy Richard Maness said in a statement.

Southern Pines Fire Chief Mike Cameron said that two substations in the county were damaged by gunfire on Saturday and that a possible motive wasn’t clear. A Duke Energy spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email asking about the gunfire.

Sheriff Ronnie Fields said the mass power outage was being investigated as a “criminal occurrence.” The FBI is assisting in the investigation.

Officials also said a curfew would be in effect starting at 9 p.m. Sunday county-wide. A state of emergency was also declared.

The outages started around 7 p.m. Saturday and were ongoing Sunday morning.

Moore County has 47,000 Duke Energy customers, so 38,000 outages in the county is a large percentage.

The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines reported that one of its journalists saw a gate to one of the substations had been damaged and was lying in an access road.

“A pole holding up the gate had clearly been snapped off where it meets the ground. The substation’s infrastructure was heavily damaged,” the newspaper reported.

The newspaper reported that Moore County Regional Hospital was operating on generator power.

Southern Pines Fire and Rescue reported the town’s water and sewer services are also operating on backup generators. Authorities in the area asked people to stay off the roads if possible or proceed with caution because traffic lights were out of service.

Duke Energy initially expected power to be restored late Sunday, but had to push back the timeline. Moore County officials said in a news conference Sunday that power would take days to restore — likely Tuesday but as late as Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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