MOORE COUNTY, N.C. — Crews are working to restore power at two substations in eastern North Carolina after they were sabotaged by gunfire in what Gov. Roy Cooper called an “attack that damaged an entire community.”
The incident, which happened Saturday night, is being investigated as a criminal act, authorities said. The damage it caused is expected to take days to repair, leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity in Moore County. No suspects have been identified by law enforcement.
Traffic lights are still out all over the county, and thousands of people are in for another cold night with no power.
Channel 9′s Tina Terry spent Monday talking to people who’ve gone without power for two days, including Gunner Scevertson. He walked into a county shelter to get some relief from the cold he’s been living in.
“It is very warm. It was so cold last night,” Scevertson said.
He and nearly two dozen other families left their homes to take shelter.
“It’s better to have warmth and comfort than make sure your belongings are safe,” Scevertson said.
“A lot of people are looking for a warm place to stay just for a couple of hours and to charge their devices,” said Tai Wong with the Red Cross.
About 45,000 customers experienced outages initially, Duke Energy said Monday, and power could be out for many of them until Thursday. Officials added that the repairs are sophisticated ones because of how damaged the substations were.
In the town of Carthage, business owner Rachel Haviley used her generator to serve up warm coffee and food to neighbors. They’re people she said have been deeply impacted by this attack.
“Well my kids are home, they’re not in school. My husband was supposed to go to D.C., now he’s in daddy daycare. I have a friend that was supposed to be at the hospital for class, now she’s not there,” Rachel Haviley said. “There are elderly people who rely on things that help keep them alive -- so people’s lives and families have been impacted by this.”
As officials work to restore power to businesses, homes and traffic signals, Haviley will continue to serve.
“It’s boosted morale a little bit, having a nice and comfortable place to go I think,” she said.
Duke Energy’s Jeff Brooks said crews were able to restore power to about 7,000 customers in the county. But the vast majority of customers -- about 39,000 others -- are still without power.
For safety reasons, a 9 p.m. curfew will remain in effect until that power is restored.
Monday evening began another night in the dark for tens of thousands,
On a drive around the county, Ch. 9 crews didn’t see a single working traffic light.
People who live in the area were bracing for more nights like this.
“We’ve been in the cold, me, my husband, my baby and two parrots,” Nita Phillips, a resident of Carthage said as she pushed her baby -- a French bulldog named Jewel in stroller -- in search of a meal for the night. “Trying to find something to eat, something warm.”
In the darkness, some are bringing light by helping out where they can.
The Belt Buckle Barn provided free chicken meals to a long line of folks.
“It is very sad, to know this was possibly intentional is just crazy,” said Crystal Benson of Belt Buckle Barn. “We should be helping each other, uplifting each other and not doing damage to each other.”
In downtown Carthage, sidewalks and streets typically brightened by Christmas lights are only illuminated by the headlights of passing cars.
“This is the time families get together and they all sleep in one room with all the candles they can,” said Tea Hines of Carthage. “Just buckle down and have Christmas stories at this time, like chestnuts roasting on the open fire type deal.”
Power outages could last days after shootings at NC substations, officials warn
Gov. Roy Cooper commended the local and state response to the incident, saying in a news conference Monday afternoon that it was “swift and strong.”
“Regardless of motive, violence and sabotage will not be tolerated,” Cooper said.
In response to the ongoing outages, which began just after 7 p.m. Saturday across Moore County, officials announced a state of emergency. County schools were also closed Monday.
WTVD in Raleigh flew over one of the affected substations as Duke Energy crews worked to get power back to the area Monday.
FirstHealth, a system local to the area, announced the Moore Regional Hospital was open Monday and running on backup generator power.
“All of our patient areas are on backup power,” said Jonathan Davis, the hospital’s president.
He says the hospital is prepared to operate like this for the next few days, but some elective surgeries have been canceled.
“We will look to the weekend to schedule some of those cases to make sure our patients get in before the end of the year,” Davis said.
The FBI and and state authorities are investigating, and law enforcement is providing security at the substations. The Red Cross is setting up shelters for residents who need them.
On Monday, National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby gave the first response from the White House on the incident. In a statement to ABC News, Kirby said, “We’ve obviously been monitoring this very, very closely and we’re in contact with local officials. In fact, local officials and specifically local law enforcement are getting federal support on the investigation. So we’re going to obviously let that investigation play out.”
This is a developing story. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(WATCH BELOW: ‘Intentional vandalism’ reason for mass power outage in Moore County, authorities say)
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