Thousands of residents were left without power after vandals shot two substations in an act Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields suggested could be “domestic terrorism”. More than 47,000 homes and businesses were affected by the outages leaving nearly all of Moore County, North Carolina, roughly 90 miles east of Charlotte, in the dark.
Local, state and federal law enforcement, including agents from the FBI, are investigating the incident.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said: “We’re looking at all avenues, that’s the reason I’ve got the federal folks – they deal with domestic terrorism more than local [law enforcement].
“They are on board to help determine exactly who did this. It was targeted, it wasn’t random.”
He added that no individual or group had claimed responsibility for the attack and labelled the vandals “cowards”.
Officials announced a curfew on Sunday from 9pm to 5am local time and said restoration efforts might not be completed until Thursday.
The outages, which began around 7pm Saturday, were a result of intentional damage by firearms to two substations in the county, according to Duke Energy officials.
State Senator Tom McInnis pointed to sub-freezing temperatures and dark roads as the need for the curfew.
He said: “It is going to be very, very, very dark, and it’s going to be chilly tonight.
“And we don’t need to have anyone out on the streets – that is the reason for our curfew this evening.”
He added that the gunfire which damaged the substations was a “terrible act” which appeared “intentional, willful and malicious”.
Responding to questions that the vandalism was related to a drag show in the area which has faced backlash, Sheriff Fields said officials were not aware of any connection.
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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Twitter that he had spoken to state law enforcement and Duke energy officials about the outages.
Moore Regional Hospital switched to generator power due to the outages, however, a hospital spokeswoman told local media that the loss of power had not affected patients.
There were reports of several traffic accidents due to the blackouts, one accident saw four people rushed to the hospital with minor injuries.
An emergency shelter at Moore County Sports Complex has been opened with food and generator power which can house upwards of 250 people, according to county officials.