Authorities declared a mandatory curfew in a North Carolina county that left about 40,000 customers without power Saturday night after two substations were damaged by gunfire.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said at a news conference Sunday that the county will be enforcing a mandatory curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Sunday evening.
City and county officials “have plans in place for that night and the next few nights that we might lose power. This is a very serious situation,” Fields said. “So we’ve come to an agreement to best protect our citizens and businesses in our county, we’re going to impose a curfew tonight.”
A state of emergency went into effect at 4 p.m. Sunday and law enforcement, city and energy officials are investigating the incident and working to restore the two substations, authorities said. Law enforcement has also been providing security at the station, according to the sheriff.
The outage is being investigated as a “criminal incident” after crews spotted signs of potential damage at multiple locations, CNN previously reported.
Multiple rounds were fired at the two substations, Fields said. “This is targeted, not random,” he said.
No suspects have been identified in connection with the incident so far. Fields would not say whether the criminal activity was domestic terrorism.
“The people who did this knew very well what they were doing,” Fields said. “We don’t know why Moore County.”
Fields acknowledged that a woman posted on Facebook Sunday morning saying she had been questioned by law enforcement in connection with the incident. Fields did not name the woman but said she had posted false information on social media claiming to be behind the incident.
“We have nothing,” Fields said when asked about a possible motive. “There is no incentive, no group to come forward and admit or accept that they are [did] it. ”
Mike Cameron of Southern Pines Fire and Rescue told CNN on Sunday afternoon that a gate at one of the locations also appeared to have come off its hinges.
Cameron said there had been an increase in emergency calls in the area because of the lack of power, adding that crashes had occurred as traffic lights went out. People dependent on oxygen have made emergency calls, he said.
Countywide, more than 37,000 customers were without power Sunday night, according to the Duke Energy Outage Map. About 38,000 customers were without power in Moore County and neighboring Hawke County, according to poweroutage.us.
Moore County Manager Wayne Vest said a generator-run shelter opened Sunday afternoon with the Red Cross at the Moore County Sports Center. Additional trailers with bathrooms and showers were also brought to the shelter, Vest said.
The sheriff said the estimated cost of the damage to the substation was “in the millions.”
For some customers, the restoration of the two substations may not be complete until Thursday, Jeff Brooks, Duke Energy’s principal communications manager, said in a news conference Sunday.
“We’re going to be working around the clock, all hands-on, to restore power as quickly and safely as possible,” Brooks said.
Duke Energy will continue to cooperate with Moore Sheriff’s Office and county officials in support of the investigation.
Brooks said the substation was “deliberately affected” and damaged multiple pieces of equipment at the substation, causing the outage. In this case, rerouting power is not an option, he said.
“Equipment will have to be replaced,” Brooks said. “We’re looking at fairly complex repairs to major equipment. For most customers, this will be a multi-day recovery, possibly extending into Thursday.”
A local supermarket is distributing ice to affected residents, according to a press release from grocery chain Harris Teeter.
The outage also caused officials to cancel classes at all schools in the county on Monday. In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Moore County Schools said: “A bulletin will be issued tomorrow evening to inform parents and staff of school status on Tuesday.”
Several communities across the county began experiencing power outages just after 7 p.m. Saturday, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.
“As the utility began responding to various substations, evidence was discovered that indicated vandalism occurred at multiple locations,” the office said.
At least two substations were vandalized with “criminal intent,” the U.S. House of Representatives said. Richard Hudson said in a release Sunday morning.
The North Carolina Bureau of Investigation and the FBI are responding, according to Hudson. He said the motive remains unknown.
Hudson, whose congressional district includes Moore County, said the Southern Pines Police Department has opened a community center where residents can charge their devices.
CNN has contacted Southern Pines police and the FBI.
At a news conference on Sunday, Fields responded to rumors circulating on social media that the attack was an attempt to stop a local drag show.
Fields said law enforcement was working across the board but “couldn’t connect anything to the drag show,” which was scheduled for Saturday night in the nearby town of Southern Pines.
The Sunrise Theater advertises on its website “Downtown Divas!” The drag show began at 7 p.m., and Fields said the power went out shortly after that.
CNN has reached out to the Sunrise Theater and the Southern Pines Police Department. CNN also contacted Sandhills Pride, the organization behind Saturday’s drag event.
“This is a horrible act,” Senator Tom McInnis of North Carolina said at a news conference. “And this appears to have been a deliberate, deliberate and malicious act, and the perpetrators will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Duke Energy spokesman Brooks told CNN affiliate WRAL that the crew was experiencing “multiple equipment failures” affecting the Moore County substation.
“We are also investigating signs of potential damage related to the outage,” Brooks said.
Representatives and officials from other law enforcement agencies traveled to various locations to provide security, according to the sheriff’s office.
governor roy cooper tweet on sunday State law enforcement will participate in the investigation.
“I have spoken with Duke Energy and state law enforcement officials regarding the Moore County outage. They are investigating and working to restore power to those affected,” Cooper said. “The state is providing support as needed.”
Moore County is located in central North Carolina, about 50 miles northwest of Fayetteville.