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Power expected to be restored Wednesday in Moore County, officials say

US-Power Outage Vandalism
Karl B DeBlaker
Workers set up an automated display warning drivers on NC211 of the power outage in the area and how to approach the upcoming intersections in Southern Pines, N.C., Monday, Dec. 5, 2022.

Moore County residents should expect to see power restored by Wednesday, a Duke Energy spokesperson said Tuesday. The county’s public schools are hoping to return to normal operations by Friday.

“We've had a good day, we've worked hard, we've gotten some good progress done,” said Duke Energy Spokesperson Jeff Brooks about the company’s efforts Tuesday to restore power.

About 35,000 Duke Energy and Randolph Electric customers remain without power as of Tuesday evening. A majority of residents in the county have been affected by the outages.

The power cuts began shortly after 7 p.m. on Saturday when one or more individuals used firearms to attack two substations. Most residents have gone over 70 hours without power, and temperatures have dropped as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit since the attack.

Most of the tens of thousands of Duke Energy customers impacted by the Moore County substation attacks are expected to see power restored by Wednesday, Brooks said.

"This is a very complicated process that involves equipment that has been moved into place and installed,” said Brooks. “But now we're going through the process of calibrating it and testing it and preparing it to synchronize with the electric grid.”

As power returns, Moore County Schools Superintendent Tim Locklear says the county hopes to bring school staff back to work on Thursday. The goal is to resume normal school operations Friday. On Wednesday, schools will remain fully closed to students and teachers.

Investigations into attacks continue

County officials did not provide further information into the state and federal investigations into the substation attacks. The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting the FBI as well as the Moore County Sheriff's Office to investigate, North Carolina Department of Public Safety Secretary Eddie Buffaloe said Monday.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields was absent from Tuesday’s media briefing. In his stead, Moore County Chief Deputy Richard Maness said that the “investigation continues at a very fast pace.”

Maness said a tip line set up for the investigation has been “very, very active in the last 24 hours.” Residents with information about the attacks can leave tips at 910-947-4444.

Authorities have not released a motive or said what kind of weapon was used. Officials have not announced any arrests or publicly named suspects in the attacks.

US-Power Outage Vandalism
Karl B DeBlaker
Workers work on equipment at the West End Substation, at 6910 NC Hwy 211 in West End, N.C., Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, where a serious attack on critical infrastructure has caused a power outage to many around Southern Pines, N.C.

‘Seemed too easy,’ says Cooper

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called for a thorough assessment of the state’s critical infrastructure Tuesday morning at a Council of State meeting — a collective body of elected officials comprising the executive branch. He said this will likely include discussions with federal regulators, lawmakers and utility companies about how to bolster security and prevent future attacks.

“This seemed to be too easy,” Cooper said after the meeting. “People knew what they were doing to disable the substation, and for that much damage to be caused — causing so much problem, economic loss, safety challenges to so many people for so long — I think we have to look at what we might need to do to harden that infrastructure.”

Mike Causey, the North Carolina insurance commissioner and state fire marshal, called the attack “a wakeup call to provide better security at our power substations.”

State Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Moore County, said new legislation will be considered to increase penalization for this type of attack.

“I'm reasonably confident there will be new legislation that will be brought forth in the long session to address the potential that the crime and the penalty need to be leveled and evened out,” said McInnis.

Curfew, resources for residents

An emergency curfew between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. remains in place in the county, said Moore County Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips. One individual has died in a home without power however it is not believed the death is directly related to the outage, said Phillips.

The county continues to operate an emergency shelter and resources for residents.

“We have sufficient space for citizens to come and stay, come and charge their phone, come and take a shower or get warm,” says Phillips.

The emergency shelter is located at the Moore County Sports Complex at 155 Hillcrest Park Lane in Carthage, N.C. Additional information about emergency resources can be obtained by calling 910-947-6317. You can find a further list of resources here.

Fifty-four residents stayed at the Sports Complex shelter Monday night, officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.