Multiple power substations in a North Carolina county were damaged by gunfire in an apparent act of criminal vandalism, leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity, authorities said.
Utility company Duke Energy said nearly 38,000 customers were without power in Moore County, while the Randolph Electric Membership Corporation reported outages affected nearly 3,000 customers in the county’s southern area, WRAL-TV reported.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said in a Facebook post that the outages began at about 7 p.m. Saturday night. More than 40,000 electric customers in the county remained without power on Sunday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.
“As utility companies began responding to the different substations, evidence was discovered that indicated that intentional vandalism had occurred at multiple sites,” the sheriff said.
A gate at one of the locations also appears to have been taken off its hinges, Mike Cameron of the Southern Pines Fire and Rescue Department told CNN on Sunday afternoon.
Cameron said the area is experiencing increased emergency calls due to the lack of power, adding that auto accidents have occurred because traffic lights are out. People who rely on oxygen have placed emergency calls, he said.
Cameron also said that while the power company estimated electricity would be restored by Sunday evening, after assessing the damage, they’ve determined it could take at least until Monday.
The equipment that was damaged is not easily replaceable and will have to be brought in to make the repairs, Cameron said.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI have been called in, US Rep. Richard Hudson said Sunday morning in a release, noting the damage was clearly vandalism.
The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines reported that one of its journalists saw a gate to one of the substations had been damaged and was lying in an access road, according to the Associated Press.
“A pole holding up the gate had clearly been snapped off where it meets the ground. The substation’s infrastructure was heavily damaged,” the newspaper reported.