A malicious attack on the power grid in Moore County that some are likening to terrorism knocked out power Saturday to 40,000 customers and left the central North Carolina county in a state of emergency and with a curfew in place.
The outage was first reported in Carthage about 7 p.m. Saturday and shortly after spread across the central and southern parts of the county. Duke Energy crews that responded to the two substations affected called police after discovering evidence that gates were knocked down and the stations were damaged by gunfire. Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said during a Sunday afternoon news conference that the repairs are more extensive than those needed during a storm and the outage could last through Thursday.
"In many cases, some of that equipment has to be replaced," he said.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said his office, along with the law enforcement agencies in the county's 11 municipalities as well as the FBI and State Bureau of Investigation, is conducting a probe into the assault on the county's infrastructure. He estimated repairs would cost Duke Energy millions of dollars. Fields called the incident a criminal attack perpetrated by cowards.
"I can promise you, to the perpetrators out there, we will find you," Sheriff Fields said.
Here's what we know:
State of emergency
A state of emergency went into effect at 4 p.m. Sunday, according to Bryan Phillps, director of Moore County public safety. County Manager Wayne Best said a curfew will be in place from 9 pm. to 5 a.m., and one shelter was opened at the Moore County Sports Complex, 155 Hillcrest Park Lane in Carthage.
Best said the Red Cross is helping with the shelter, which can handle 250 people and has generator backup.
"Should we see the demand increase above and beyond what we're able to do there, we'll certainly look to open another shelter," Best said.
On Monday, roughly 650 Duke Energy customers had power restored, while more than 32,600 homes and businesses remained without power. Another 2,107 Randolph EMC customers were still without power.
Although some schools in the northern and central parts of the county may have power, all school operations are impacted by this power outage, according to Moore Couty Schools.
As a result, schools in the district were closed Monday and a decision on the status of schools Tuesday and Wednesday will be announced, said district Superintendent Tim Locklear.
"As we move forward, we'll be taking it day-by-day in making those decisions," Locklear said Sunday.
Fields said that in the wake of the outages, extra security is working to protect the remaining substations in the county as well as businesses.
State Sen. Tim McInnis urged people to stay off the roads and if they don't live in Moore County to stay away,
"We don't need to have anyone out on the streets," McInnis said Sunday. "I challenge our members of the community — if you do not have to go out for any reason, please stay home tonight. We might have to do this —tomorrow night and the following night. The roads are dangerous. We have two roads, U.S. Highway 501 and U.S. 1 that cross here in Moore County, so we have people coming in from the east and west, the north and the south, who don't know of this problem that we're having. So we do ask of everyone if you have no business in Moore County, please stay away until we're able to open back up."
No one has taken responsibility
Fields said Sunday evening that no group or individual had taken responsibility for the attacks. He said his investigators spoke to at least one vocal critic of a drag show that was happening Saturday evening in Southern Pines who had posted a cryptic message to her Facebook page claiming to know what happened to the power.
"The power is out and I know why," Emily Grace Rainey, a former Army captain who resigned amid an investigation into her participating in the Jan. 6 protests at the U.S. Capitol, posted to her Facebook page shortly before 9 p.m Saturday. About 10 minutes later, she a photo of the Sunrise Theater where the Downtown Divas show was being held with the comment, "Sunrise Theater God will not be mocked."
Fields said detectives spoke to the woman, using a Southern colloquialism in his statement that led some to believe law enforcement prayed with her.
"There is an individual that put some information on Facebook that was false," he said. "Yes, we had to go and interview this young lady and have a word of prayer with her, but it turned out to be nothing."
Much like the phrase "come to Jesus;" "have a word of prayer" means to have a "stern and serious" conversation, Chief Deputy Richard Maness said.
When asked how it was determined the information was false, Fields said, "Good law enforcement."
Rainey posted about the visit from law enforcement and on Sunday evening after Fields' statement, posted a follow-up saying her name had been cleared. She also decried the drag show as blasphemous and immoral and said that was why people were suffering in the county.
"God uses bad people (like the Babylonians in 598 BC and whoever shot the power station) to chastise a people or a region. We brought this on ourselves," she said.