North Carolina county under curfew after gun attack on 2 substations cuts power to 45,000

Residents of Moore County, North Carolina, were under curfew Sunday night and school was canceled Monday after a group or person shot up and badly damaged two power substations Saturday night. "The person who did this knew what they were doing," Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said at a news conference Sunday. "It appears they were trying to shut down the county."

"I can promise you, to the perpetrators out there, we will find you," Fields said.

The attack, which began at about 7 p.m. on Saturday, left 45,000 households and business without power, and roughly 35,000 remained without power Sunday night, said Duke Energy, whose equipment was damaged in the attack. The utility said it could take until Thursday to restore power across the county. In the meantime, residents, businesses, hospitals, and the town of Southern Pines are relying generators to maintain basic or essential services.

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"You can hear generators running in every direction," Andrew Wilkins, visiting his parents in Whispering Pines, told The Fayetteville Observer. He added that with WiFi and cellphone service down, there's also a "huge information blackout" in much of the county.

Fields said law enforcement is still trying to determine a motive for the attack, which his office is treating as an act of criminal vandalism. When asked about widespread speculation the attack was intended to shut down a drag show in Southern Pines targeted by right-wing groups, he said "anything's possible, but we've not been able to tie anything back to the drag show." The show went on for 45 minutes after the lights went out, and attendees described it as a success, the Observer reports.

"No group has stepped up to acknowledge or accept that they're the ones that done it," Fields said. "I call them cowards is what I call them." He said the FBI, the State Bureau of Investigation, and law enforcement in the county's 11 municipalities are working "as a team" to investigate the incident.

After a 2013 sniper attack on an electrical substation in Silicon Valley, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission began requiring power utilities to better protect large substations that could knock out parts of the U.S. power grid, The Wall Street Journal reports. "FERC's new rule didn't immediately include tens of thousands of smaller substations."

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