Officials in Moore County, North Carolina, declared a state of emergency on Sunday after gunfire damaged an electrical substation and left 45,000 homes and businesses without power in near freezing temperatures.
“It appears to be an intentional, willful, and malicious act,” said Tom McInnis, North Carolina State Senator, during a press conference. “The perpetrator will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The state of emergency declaration, obtained by North Carolina-based publication The Pilot, says, “Massive Power Outages due to criminal activity…has caused widespread and significant power outages within the County of Moore, North Carolina. It is anticipated to take up to one week for the power to be restored to residents, businesses, churches, schools, and government.”
US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said via Twitter that she had been in contact with Duke Energy, the local utility provider, about Saturday night’s vandalism and that the Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response is working with federal partners on the matter.
“Law enforcement is investigating this serious incident and Duke is working around the clock to restore service,” she said. Duke Energy said its employees are working around the clock to restore power to affected customers.
“Duke Energy is pursuing multiple repair paths to restore as many customers as possible, as quickly and safely as possible,” said Jason Hollifield, Duke Energy’s general manager, Emergency Preparedness, in a statement.
“This is a significant local outage that is affecting nearly all customers in Moore County. While some customers will be restored sooner, most customers should be prepared for an extended outage that could last until Thursday.”
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request to confirm its reported involvement in the investigation.
At the press conference, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields was asked by a reporter whether there’s any connection between the attack on the power grid and a drag show that had been scheduled Saturday evening in the town of Southern Pines.
“None that I’m aware of,” Fields responded. “Is it possible? Yes, anything is possible. But we’ve not been able to tie anything back to the drag show.”
Last month in North Carolina, the Proud Boys, a right-wing hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, disrupted a drag show, one of a rising number of such incidents in recent months.
The shooting attack on the power grid echoes a similar gunfire attack on a Pacific Gas & Electric substation that occurred in Metcalf, California in April, 2013.
That attack, which remains unsolved and probably wasn’t an act of terrorism, prompted California lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 699 to explore stronger security measures for the electrical grid. In 2019, California adopted rules to implement such measures to defend its electrical distribution grid. ®