The Aftermath of the Moore County Power Outage
Five days. That was how long thousands of Moore County residents were left without power until it was fully restored on Thursday, December 8th. This massive power outage, which impacted around 45,000 people, had a devastating effect on the county’s Southern and Central regions. With no power, residents were left without electricity and functioning wastewater pumps, and some traffic accidents even occurred due to non-functioning traffic lights.
The power outage started around 7 P.M. on Saturday, December 3rd. Many residents reported the lack of power to Duke Energy, one of the leading suppliers of energy in the area. As the utility company investigated the claims, they discovered that the outage was no accident; two of their substations had been damaged by gunfire, and unfortunately, it was not an easy fix. As Duke Energy’s general manager Jason Hollifield stated in a press release published earlier this week, “…the damage is beyond repair in some areas. That leaves us with no option but to replace large pieces of equipment – which is not an easy or quick task.”
While the damages were being repaired, a state of emergency was declared in the county on Sunday, December 4th, which established a 9 P.M. to 5 A.M. curfew. Schools were also closed from Monday to Thursday of that week, and a shelter was set up at the Moore County Sports Complex for residents to access, food, hot water, and WiFi.
From December 3rd to the 7th, various homes and businesses slowly began to regain power. Stubbs and Son, one of the 618 local restaurants affected by the outage, had its power restored on Tuesday morning. Although their refrigerators had stopped working, they were able to store their food at a different location during the outage and didn’t face many losses. The FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital only regained power on the morning of Wednesday, December 7th. Before then, the 402-bed hospital had been relying on a backup generator. On that same day, Duke Energy announced that they had finally fixed all the substation damages and would begin to gradually restore power to the people. The next day, the state of emergency and curfew ended.
Despite the good news, an investigation is still ongoing to apprehend the person(s) who damaged the two substations. Ronnie Fields, the Moore County Sheriff, has been working alongside the Federal and State Bureaus of Investigation to investigate a possible motive. In a press conference held on Sunday, Fields stated that the culprits “knew exactly what they were doing” and told the public that the attack was clearly targeted. Although investigators have been somewhat tight-lipped about the investigation, users on social media have been quick to connect the attack to the “Downtown Divas” drag show that was happening at Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines around the time the power went out. Organizers of the show stated that many conservative activists had been trying to cancel the show weeks in advance, and many believe that the damage to the substation was their way to try and prevent the show from happening. However, despite this theory’s popularity, Fields stated at the press conference that authorities had found no connection between the two events.
While investigators are currently seeking out cell phone records and search warrants to help close the case, information from the public is greatly appreciated. A $75,000 reward is being offered to anyone who can help the authorities arrest and convict the culprit(s). Anyone with useful information can call the Moore County Sheriff’s Office anonymous tip line at 910-947-4444.