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Moore County substation attacks: 35K still without power as temperatures drop

The Fayetteville Observer logo The Fayetteville Observer 12/6/2022 Taylor Shook, The Fayetteville Observer

Moore County officials have declared a state of emergency as Duke Energy responds to a targeted attack on two substations that knocked out power to thousands of customers and could take days to repair, officials said at a press conference Sunday afternoon. 

Residents are under a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until further notice, officials said.

A Duke Energy representative said Sunday that the repair includes the replacement of substantial equipment and some residents could be without power until Thursday. 

As of 9:50 a.m. Monday, 33,222 Duke Energy customers and 2,107 Randolph EMC customers were without power, per a county outage map. 

More:Moore County, NC: Where is it, what makes it special?

Sheriff Ronnie Fields said during the Sunday press conference that gunshots were fired at the substations, taking out the power first in Carthage about 7 p.m. Saturday then shortly thereafter, when a second substation was attacked, spreading to the greater majority of the county. More than 40,000 customers were without power. 

When asked if the attack on the power grid was in response to a highly contested drag show in Southern Pines on Saturday night, Sheriff Ronnie Fields said they had yet to find any connection to the show. 

After power outages, the streets of downtown Southern Pines are empty and dark, Dec. 4, 2022. © Taylor Shook After power outages, the streets of downtown Southern Pines are empty and dark, Dec. 4, 2022.

More photos:Downtown Southern Pines is dark, empty amidst power outages

The drag show must go on:The drag show must go on: Organizers say death threats won't stop Southern Pines event

8 p.m.: Help available for Moore County residents

An emergency shelter is still open at 155 Hillcrest Park Lane in Carthage, according to a news release from the Moore County Department of Public Safety. Shower and laundry units will be available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Other locations with shower units will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. They are:

• First Baptist Church Aberdeen, 700 N. Sandhills Blvd., Aberdeen.

• First Baptist Church Pinehurst, 7373 NC 211, West End.

• Sandhills Baptist Association, 5254 U.S. 15-501, Carthage (will be set up at 11 a.m. Tuesday)

Meals will be available beginning Tuesday from 12:30 to 2:30 at the following locations:

• 503 North Sandhills Blvd. in Aberdeen. Drive-thru.

• Hillcrest Sports Complex, 155 Hillcrest Park Lane, Carthage. Pickup only.

• Southern Pines Fire Station 82, 7850 NC 22, Carthage. Pickup only.

5:05 p.m.: Seven of 22 Moore County schools have power; Fort Bragg leaders encouraged to support affected employees

Seven of Moore County’s 22 schools have power, a spokesperson said, but phone lines and Wi-Fi are not available at any schools, a spokesperson said in an email. 

Refrigerated and frozen food from schools without power was transferred to schools that do, but if the electricity is not restored by tomorrow, food may have to be stored in refrigerated trucks, she said, but Scotland and Cumberland county schools have both offered food storage if needed.

A Fort Bragg spokesperson said officials encourage management to lend a hand to employees affected by power outages.  

“We encourage unit leaders to follow up with service members and civilian personnel who are impacted by the outage to ensure they have a warm and safe place to sleep and ensure access to food and water,” the spokesperson said. 

5 p.m.: Gov. Cooper 'Regardless of motive, violence and sabotage will not be tolerated.'

Gov. Roy Cooper, flanked by the Moore County sheriff, other law enforcement agencies and the Duke Energy representative held a news conference Monday afternoon at the Sheriff's Office in Carthage.

"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," Cooper said.

He said he's received regular briefings on the investigation and the emergency management effort to support those affected by the loss of power. While in Moore County, Cooper visited one of the substations impacted and said crews were working hard to restore power under complex circumstances.

"Helping the vulnerable people in the places where they live including adult care homes is a priority," he said. "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."

He noted how local businesses were losing valuable retail time and students are missing classes just before the holidays.

"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," Cooper said.

"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," he said.

Jeff Brooks, spokesman for Duke Energy, which provides service to the bulk of the customers affected, said an estimated 45,000 people were without service initially. He said that is "nearly all of the customers that Duke Energy serves in Moore County."

"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," Brook said.

Sheriff Ronnie Fields reminded people that anyone with information in the attacks can call the tip line at 910-947-4444.

"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," Cooper said .

4:30 p.m.: 35,000 without power as temperatures drop to high 40s overnight

A Duke Energy power outage app shows thousands in Moore County without power as of 4:30 p.m., Dec. 5, 2022. © Duke Energy A Duke Energy power outage app shows thousands in Moore County without power as of 4:30 p.m., Dec. 5, 2022.

Per a county outage map, 34,339 homes, businesses and other customers remain without power. More than 32,000 of these are Duke Energy customers, and about 2,000 are Randolph EMC customers. 

Overnight weather conditions are expected to be cloudy with little chance of precipitation and temperatures in the high 40s, according to AccuWeather.  

4 p.m.: Moore County Schools closed tomorrow, Fort Bragg is not taking additional security precautions 

Moore County Schools are closed tomorrow, according to a post on the district’s Facebook page.  

“Moore County Schools will continue to monitor the situation and assess our ability to operate schools on Wednesday, December 7. We will announce the status for schools for Wednesday by 4 p.m. tomorrow,” the post said.  

Fort Bragg officials say the post is not ramping up security measures in response to the Moore County attacks. A spokesperson said in an email “Fort Bragg's protection condition remains unchanged.” 

Military personnel are exempt from the countywide curfew, however, the spokesperson said report times can be arranged for employees without power. 

“Those who live in the areas affected by power outages and work on the installation should work with their units regarding flexible report times,” the spokesperson said. 

3:25 p.m.: Will Moore County Schools excuse absences through Thursday? Parents want to know

Though Duke Energy estimates that power will be restored countywide until Thursday, Moore County Schools has yet to make an announcement regarding school closures for the rest of the week.  

Tuesday closures will be announced this evening, per a Dec. 4 Facebook post to the district’s page. Some commenters asked whether school absences will be excused through Thursday, to allow families to seek shelter elsewhere amidst power outages.  

“Why is it that Duke Energy is saying it could be as late as Thursday we aren’t doing a long term closure? Give families the opportunity to go elsewhere?” a typical comment read.

The same post said some county schools in the northern and central areas "may have power," while others do not. School officials did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment by The Fayetteville Observer.

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A Facebook post shared by the district today showed crews moving frozen food from schools without power to alternate freezers.  

3 p.m.: Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields has no relationship with woman in photo

A photograph gaining traction on social media of Sheriff Ronnie Fields with Emily Rainey, a vocal critic of drag shows in Moore County, was taken during a 2020 public event, Chief Deputy Richard Maness said Monday.

"Sheriff Field takes pictures with lots and lots of people," Maness said. "There is absolutely nothing personal between Ronnie Fields and Emily Rainey. They have been in the same room together only — only — at political functions where there are mass people there. One of the last places I remember was at the VFW at a public debate."

Rainey, who posted to Facebook that she knew why the power was out, was visited Sunday by detectives investigating the attack on the power grid. Fields said in a press conference Sunday afternoon that her statement was false information.

2:30 p.m.: Fayetteville food trucks will serve food in Carthage 

Zachary Substanley, owner of Fry Papi food truck. © Andrew Craft, The Fayetteville Observer Zachary Substanley, owner of Fry Papi food truck.

Fayetteville’s Fry Papi food truck owner Zachary Substanley said he and a few fellow food truck owners will serve food from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at the Family Dollar parking lot at 1019 Monroe St. in Carthage. 

Fry Papi is offering patrons chicken, bean and cheese burritos with a drink for $5, in addition to the regular menu. C&S Ice will serve hot dogs, hot chocolate, coffee, donuts and Philadelphia Water Ice. 

Fayetteville food trucks Kwon’s Kitchen Korean Cuisine and Some Ting’s Cooking food trucks will also be at the Family Dollar, Substanley said.  

2:05 p.m.: Fayetteville’s Public Works Commission is reviewing safety procedures, spokesperson says

The Fayetteville Public Works Commission said it is reviewing security measures in light of Moore County power outages caused by attacks on substations, a spokesperson said Dec. 5, 2022. © The Fayetteville Observer/FILE The Fayetteville Public Works Commission said it is reviewing security measures in light of Moore County power outages caused by attacks on substations, a spokesperson said Dec. 5, 2022.

A Fayetteville Public Works Commission spokesperson said the electric provider is evaluating security measures, though it exceeds national and regional compliance requirements for electric system security.

“In light of the Moore County incident, we are increasing our monitoring, reviewing our security procedures, and working with local authorities to maintain security to protect our system and ensure delivery of services to our customers,” the spokesperson said in an email. 

PWC will offer assistance to Moore County teams if available and requested, she said.

1:35 p.m.: Southern Pines food truck park is open for business

Moore County residents eat, drink and socialize at Red's Corner, a Southern Pines brewery and food truck park. Amidst power outages, it is one of the few places for a hot meal in the county, Dec. 5, 2022. © Rachel Jurgens Moore County residents eat, drink and socialize at Red's Corner, a Southern Pines brewery and food truck park. Amidst power outages, it is one of the few places for a hot meal in the county, Dec. 5, 2022.

Red's Corner food truck park and brewery at 901 Southwest Broadway St. in Southern Pines is open for business, owner Rachel Jurgens said. About nine food trucks will be serving food until about 8 p.m., she said.

The mood is light as folks warm up around campfires and propane heaters, get a bite to eat from the trucks, listen to live music and drink ice-cold beer and hot coffee, Jurgens said. All the while, children are playing on the playground as parents socialize, she said.

"It's amazing," she said. "It's really fun to see the happiness."

Jurgens said the corner has been "packed" today as there are few other places to get a hot meal. Some food trucks had already sold out, though their replacements were on the way, she said.

1:05 p.m.: Some Duke Energy customers see power restored

Roughly 650 Duke Energy customers had power restored since Monday morning; 32,664 homes, residents and businesses remain without power, per a county outage map. Another 2,107 Randolph EMC customers are still without power. 

The American Red Cross is working with area partners to provide support, according to a Dec. 4 news release. The same release urged residents to take safety precautions: 

  • Stay off the roads as much as possible while traffic signals are out. 
  • Turn off an unplug appliances and electronics to avoid surges that could damage equipment when power is restored.  
  • Eat perishable food from the refrigerator first, then the freezer. Prepare a cooler with ice for freezer items.  
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gas-burning device inside and keep devices away from windows and doors to prevent carbon monoxide from coming inside.  
  • Operate generators on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as a tarp.  
  • Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could catch fire. 
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet. 

12:35 p.m.: Sandhills Pride director encourages LGBTQ community and allies to support each other, ask for help

Lauren Mathers, Sandhills Pride executive director, urged members of the LGBTQ community and their allies who are feeling the effects of the drag show protests and the subsequent power outages to stay connected.  

“Reach out to each other,” she said. “No one is alone. We are all here for each other.” 

She urged members to seek mental health care, and for those who have access to the internet, to consult the list of LGBTQ-safe providers in the area at sandhillspride.org.  

“The constant hate is very draining,” she said.

People can reach out to contact@sandhillspride.org for more support and information, Mathers said, and sign up for the Sandhills Pride newsletter to stay connected.  

More:'It was a beautiful moment': Moore County drag show goes on despite power outages

12:10 p.m.: FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital is still operating on backup generators

A FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital spokesperson said the hospital is still operating on backup generators, and the health system has enough fuel on-site to last “several days" and is able to secure additional fuel if needed. The hospital has not gotten word that it will regain power any sooner than Thursday, like the rest of the county. 

“We are very confident and comfortable that the hospital can continue to operate throughout the power outage,” she said.  

The Clara Mclean House on the hospital campus at 20 First Village Drive in Pinehurst is open to people who need electricity for medical devices, the spokesperson said. The house is also operating on generator power. 

Several specialty and primary care clinics are closed and decisions to reopen will be made on a day-to-day basis based on power restoration, the spokesperson said.  

The health system has not received an influx of patients since the outages began, she said. For more information on health services during the outages, call 910-715-1000.

11:40 a.m.: Southern Pines mother says power outages have been cold, difficult

Southern Pines resident Jazz Murcia, her husband Alexander, and their son, Aiden pose for a photo on Christmas Day, 2021. Like thousands of others, the family lost power after coordinated attacks on two substations in Moore County. © Jazz Murcia Southern Pines resident Jazz Murcia, her husband Alexander, and their son, Aiden pose for a photo on Christmas Day, 2021. Like thousands of others, the family lost power after coordinated attacks on two substations in Moore County.

Jazz Murcia, 28, lives in a Southern Pines two-bedroom apartment with her husband Alexander, 32, their son Ayden, 1, and two pets. 

The family lost power Saturday night and the lights have yet to come back on. Once she found out the power outages could last for days, she said her first priority was keeping her son warm and fed. 

“I wrapped him up in a blanket extra tight,” she said.  

Their apartment has been chilly the last few nights, she said, and much of their food has spoiled. 

The FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital employee said the hospital was still using a backup generator, but she was grateful to charge her devices and store some food at work. 

Murcia had to hitch a ride with a coworker to work this morning because charging her phone in her car wore down the battery, and with few places nearby to refuel, she said is conserving gas as much as possible.  

The mother said caring for her family the last few days has been difficult. On the phone, she was audibly exhausted.

“Turning out the power affects everyone,” Murcia said.  

11 a.m.: Emergency shelter is assisting with food, water, housing and medical needs

The estimated time of energy restoration is 11:45 a.m. Thursday, according to a Duke Energy outage map. In a news release, the company said crews are working 24-hour shifts to replace equipment that was damaged in the attacks. 

The county continues to operate an emergency shelter at Moore County Sports Complex Recreation Center at 155 Hillcrest Park Lane in Carthage. The shelter is providing emergency housing, distributing food and water and providing charging stations for electronic devices. 

Nurses are on hand to assist with limited medical needs. Those seeking to stay at the shelter should bring their medications and medical equipment with them, an emergency worker said. To arrange transportation, call 910-947-6317.

10:30 a.m.: Officials say curfew does not apply to military and other essential employees

The 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew does not apply to essential workers, including Fort Bragg military and civilian employees, according to a Dec. 4 Fort Bragg Paraglide Facebook post. A Department of Defense ID voids the curfew, the post said. 

Officials are urging residents to conserve fuel until the state of emergency ends Friday unless it is otherwise extended. Duke Energy asked customers to conserve electricity as partial restorations to power occur over the next few days.

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This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Moore County substation attacks: 35K still without power as temperatures drop

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