North Carolina power outage leaves thousands in the dark after apparent attack

White House and FBI monitoring incident that shows vulnerability of US energy infrastructure

Duke Energy personnel work to restore power at a second electrical substation after an act of vandalism. Reuters
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Tens of thousands in North Carolina remained without power on Monday after unknown perpetrators reportedly opened fire on two electricity substations at the weekend, local officials said.

The incident led authorities to institute a curfew.

The FBI said it was investigating “wilful damage to power facilities” following the attacks on Saturday evening.

The two substations damaged by gunfire are about 16km apart, according to the local power company, which suggested electricity may not be fully restored to all areas for several days.

The incident is an indicator of the vulnerability of the country's energy infrastructure to attack.

President Joe Biden “would be the first to admit that there’s a lot of work left to be done when it comes to infrastructure security”, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, confirming that the White House was monitoring the situation.

“An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper tweeted on Sunday.

“From this incident, it appears that the electrical grid continues to be extremely vulnerable,” Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulator Commission, told Bloomberg News.

No suspects have been apprehended and no motivation has been determined.

Across Moore County, south-west of the state capital Raleigh, businesses handed out free food or coffee. Some enterprises without internet access conducted transactions in cash.

Traffic lights were out throughout the county, with intersections treated as four-way stops. Many local businesses and restaurants shut their doors. County schools were closed.

One local economic official described the area known for its golf courses and local pottery as “eerily quiet” at a time of year when businesses are normally full of tourists and holiday shoppers.

Residents of Southern Pines, North Carolina, have lunch while the power is out in the area at Reds Food Truck Corner. AP

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: December 06, 2022, 7:48 AM