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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

NC power outage investigated as ‘criminal event’

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Authorities were investigating widespread overnight power outages in south-central North Carolina as deliberate criminal acts, the Moore County sheriff said in a statement late Saturday.

An estimated 45,000 customers were without electricity late Saturday, with no estimate of a recovery time because a number of facilities are involved and the work will be complicated, said Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for utility company Duke Energy.

Utility company Duke Energy said nearly 38,000 customers were without power in Moore County, while the Randolph Electric Membership Corporation reported nearly 3,000 customers in the southern part of the county were affected by outages, WRAL-TV reported.

Both Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields and Brooks report that vandalism could be the possible cause of the outage. Brooks said he could not further describe the nature of the possible crime.

Sewer lift stations were also out of order and authorities advised residents to stay off the roads. “There have been multiple accidents,” the Southern Pines administration said in a pronunciation on Facebook.

While typical North Carolina outages are often resolved within an hour, the overnight power outages for much of Moore County seemed like new territory for Duke and for law enforcement.

“Multiple substations are involved in the outages,” Brooks said. “Until we understand the extent of the damage, we can’t estimate when power will be restored.”

He added: “Certainly, it’s a complex repair.”

The outage began around 7 p.m. in Moore County, the sheriff said.

“As utilities began responding to the various substations, evidence was discovered indicating that deliberate vandalism had occurred at multiple locations,” Fields said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and an FBI field office did not immediately respond to questions about whether they were also investigating the outages.

Local authorities were present in communities affected by the outage. It was not clear whether this was to discourage looting or as part of the investigation.

The village of Pinehurst said extra police were on the streets overnight and urged residents to stay home.

“Officers have been called in to assist,” the village said in a statement. “Please stay off the roads if you can and treat all intersections as four-way stops.”

Kurt Chirbas contributed.


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