Authorities in Moore County, North Carolina, declared a state of emergency on Sunday, December 4, following a targeted attack that damaged electricity infrastructure and left more than 40,000 customers without electrical power. County residents are under a curfew that endures each day from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am until further notice – as a public safety measure. Moore County is located in central North Carolina, near Fort Bragg, the nation’s most populous Army post. Because of this proximity, a substantial number of soldiers and civilian personnel serving at the installation live in Moore County. The city of Fayetteville is about a 50-minute drive to the southeast. The state capital, Raleigh, is about a 70-minute drive to the northeast.
A representative of Duke Energy, the servicing electrical utility for a substantial portion of Moore County, stated during a news conference held on Sunday that the required repair work includes replacement of substantial equipment. As a result, some residents could be without power until Thursday, December 8. During the same news conference, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields reported that gunshots were fired at two electricity substations on Saturday evening, December 3.
- The first incident occurred at about 7:00 pm, targeting a substation in the town of Carthage, North Carolina.
- Shortly thereafter, a second substation was similarly attacked.
The combined effects of the damage inflicted in the gunfire attacks on the two electricity substations spread the loss of electricity to the majority of Moore County, North Carolina.
- Overall, at the peak of the adverse impact, some 45,000 customers lost power – during a time when overnight temperatures drop into the forties in degrees Fahrenheit.
- As of just after 9:30 am on Tuesday morning, December 6, 34,588 Duke Energy customers and 1,133 customers of the Randolph Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) remained without
power – encompassing more than 55% of customers in Moore County,
- The unavailability of electrical power in much of the county has compelled closures of schools and numerous businesses.
- Hospitals have continued to operate, some using back-up power generators.
- Water and sewer services have maintained operations on back-up generators as well.
News Conference – Monday Afternoon, December 5:
On Monday afternoon, December 5, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper joined the Moore County Sheriff, officials with other law enforcement agencies involved in the ongoing investigation, and a representative of Duke Energy in a news conference held at the Sheriff’s Office in Carthage.
Governor Cooper expressed, “What happened here Saturday night was a criminal attack and federal, state and local law enforcement are actively working to bring those responsible to justice.”
While in Moore County, Governor Cooper visited one of the substations targeted in the gunshot attack. He noted that repair and reconstruction crews are working hard to restore power under complex circumstances.
The Governor added, “Helping the vulnerable people in the places where they live including adult care homes is a priority. Making sure that people are warm as the night approaches; making sure people are cared for; making sure that critical services at hospitals, law enforcement, at emergency management services are supported, all of that is crucial.”
Citing the local businesses that are losing valuable retail time during the holiday shopping season and students who are missing classes, Governor Cooper asserted, “Local and the state response to all of this has been swift and strong and I know that we’ll all keep working until the power is restored and do whatever we need to do afterward.”
Considering the intentional infliction of the damage to the electricity substations and the ensuing harm due to the power outages, the Governor emphasized, “Protecting critical infrastructure like our power system must be a top priority. This kind of attack raises a new level of threat. We will be evaluating ways to work with our utility providers and our state and federal officials to make sure that we harden our infrastructure where that’s necessary and work to prevent future damage.”
During the same Monday news conference, Jeff Brooks, spokesperson for Duke Energy, which provides service to the bulk of the customers affected, reported that an estimated 45,000 people were without service initially. The level of impact encompasses “nearly all of the customers that Duke Energy serves in Moore County.”
Mr. Brooks described Duke Energy’s ongoing response effort. “We have worked to make some progress as our repairs continue. We were able to restore about 7,000 customers last night as we completed some repairs on some of the equipment that was damaged. That work continues and we have some repair paths that we hope can potentially restore a few thousand more. We will gradually see more recovery but we could still see this extend Wednesday into Thursday” – that is, to December 7 or 8.
Addressing the nature of the work, Mr. Brooks explained, “Unlike perhaps a storm where you can go in and reroute power somewhere else, that was not an option in this case, so repair has to be complete; in many cases, some of that equipment will have to be replaced.” Given what he described as “a pretty sophisticated repair with some pretty large equipment,” he advised the “citizens of the town to be prepared that this will be a multi-day restoration for most customers extending potentially until Thursday.”
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields reminded the public that anyone with information on the attacks should call the tip line at 910-947-4444. Expanding on this point, Governor Cooper stated, “Investigators are leaving no stone unturned as to what this is. They are looking at every motivation that could possibly have occurred here and they want to find the perpetrator(s).”
In this vein, some news media accounts have cited threats made against a drag show scheduled for Saturday night, December 3, at the Sunrise Theater in the Moore County town of Southern Pines – which is renowned internationally for its professional golf course that has been, and remains, a recurring host to the men’s and women’s United States Open major tournaments.
- As covered in an article published in the Fayetteville Observer newspaper on Friday morning, December 2, organizers of the drag show received threats and confronted attempts to shut down the event over a period of weeks.
- In response to threats of violence, the organizers expanded security arrangements for the Saturday night show – with private security guards on-site and the Southern Pines Police Department monitoring the event.
- In a news conference on Sunday, December 4, Sheriff Fields reported that the investigation has indicated no connection between threats made against the drag show and the gunfire attacks that seriously damaged two electricity substations, causing widespread power outages in Moore County.
The declared state of emergency and curfew are projected to run through Friday, December 9, when they will terminate unless extended.