(MOORE COUNTY, N.C.) — More than 30,000 customers in a North Carolina county awoke for the third day Tuesday without electricity as a search for those responsible for sabotaging two key power substations continued and crews scrambled to repair what authorities described as “millions of dollars” in damages.
The crisis in Moore County has prompted local law enforcement to call in the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to help in the probe of what has been deemed a criminal act. The White House is also closely monitoring the situation, officials said.
“This kind of attack raises a new level of threat,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Asked whether the attacks are being investigated as a act of domestic terrorism, Cooper said, “I think investigators are leaving no stone unturned as to what this is as they are looking at every motivation that could possibly occur.”
Residents throughout Moore County remained under curfew Monday night and into Tuesday morning, as area schools were canceled for the second day.
Duke Energy, the local utility, said crews are working around the clock to restore energy, but conceded it will likely take until Thursday to repair the damage.
Freezing temperatures in the county about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh forced many resident to seek warmth and food at a shelter opened in Carthage.
“It’s better to have warmth and comfort than make sure your belongings are safe,” Gunner Scevertson, one of the resident who left his home to seek warmth at the shelter, told Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC.
Carthage business owner Rachel Haviley used her portable generator to serve up coffee and food to neighbors in need.
“My kids are home, they’re not in school. My husband was supposed to go to DC, now he’s in daddy day care,” Haviley told WSOC. “I have a friend that was supposed to be at the hospital for class, now she’s not there. There are elderly people who rely on things that help keep them alive, so people’s lives and families have been impacted by this.”
Vandals wielding firearms are suspected of causing major damage to two electrical distribution substations, initially knocking out power to around 45,000 homes and businesses across the county, officials said. As of Tuesday morning, power had been restored to more than 7,000 customers, said Jeff Brooks, spokesman for Duke Energy.
As of Tuesday at noon, 35,304 customers in Moore County were still without electricity.
Brooks said while some of the damaged equipment could be repaired, other pieces had to be replaced.
The attacks occurred just after 7 p.m. Saturday, said Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields.
Fields said the perpetrator or perpetrators shot up two key substations in the area, adding, they “knew exactly what they were doing.”
Fields told ABC News that murder charges could be filed against those responsible if anyone dies as a result of the power outage.
“What was done was an intentional act. It was not a random act,” Fields said.
No arrests have been announced in the probe.
The attacks came amid protests over a Downtown Divas drag show in the Moore County city of Southern Pines. The drag show had been scheduled for Saturday night and was disrupted due to the blackout.
Fields said no evidence has yet been uncovered linking the power outage to the drag show.
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