Authorities said Sunday that power may not be restored until Monday or Tuesday in a central North Carolina county that experienced a widespread outage that is being investigated as a crime.
The power outages — which left at least 40,000 customers without electricity and rendered wastewater pumps out of order across the area — were caused by intentional impact in the substation to multiple pieces of equipment, said Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy.
The extended power outage will be because the power cannot be rerouted like it is during a storm and the equipment will have to be repaired or even replaced, Brooks said.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon that they had “faced something last night here in Moore County we have never faced before … we’re living in some challenging times.”
Fields said his office is working with the FBI and other state agencies to investigate. Gov. Roy Cooper has offered resources, along with local congressional offices, Fields said.
There will be a curfew starting at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, Fields said. Schools will be closed on Monday.
A state of emergency is going into effect as of 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, and a shelter has opened at the Moore County Sports Complex.
Moore County residents began to report power outages around 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, according to the sheriff’s office.
“As utility companies began responding to the different substations, evidence was discovered that indicated that intentional vandalism had occurred at multiple sites,” the office said, noting that “Moore County Sheriff’s Deputies and various other law enforcement agencies within the county responded to the different areas and are providing further site security.”
Police are asking anyone with information about the alleged incident, which the sheriff’s office described as an “act of violence,” to contact them.
Power had not been restored in Moore County as of Sunday afternoon, when Duke Energy and Randolph Electric Membership Corporation, two power companies that service the area, continued to report about 37,000 and 3,000 outages, respectively. The number of reported outages roughly equates to the number of households in Moore County, according to census data.
Cooper said Sunday that he had communicated with Duke Energy as well as state law enforcement, who were still working to get the power back on.
“I have spoken with Duke Energy and state law enforcement officials about the power outages in Moore County,” Cooper wrote on Twitter. “They are investigating and working to return electricity to those impacted. The state is providing support as needed.”
The outages also affected the county’s sewer lift stations, and the town of Southern Pines urged people to refrain from driving as “multiple accidents” had already occurred during the first few hours of the blackout.
“[W]e’d like to let you know that our sewer lift stations are currently down due to the widespread power outage in Moore County. Please limit your water and sewer usage to what is absolutely necessary until these stations are operational again,” the town wrote in a statement shared to Facebook.
“We also advise staying off the roads if you are in a safe location,” the statement continued. “There are multiple accidents that have occurred.”