CARTHAGE, N.C. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people in a North Carolina county braced Monday without power Two substations were blown up by one or more persons with apparent criminal intent, authorities said.
Throughout Moore County, many businesses and restaurants had “CLOSED” signs posted in their windows, and parking lots were empty at a time of year that is usually packed with tourists and holiday shoppers. Others hand out free food or coffee, or are able to open a business by making a cash transaction.
The county, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) southwest of the state capital Raleigh, announced that schools would close for a second day in a row on Tuesday.
Duke Energy has restored power to about 9,000 customers in the county of about 100,000 residents after about 45,000 customers lost power during peak hours. Duke University spokesman Jeff Brooks said the recovery would be gradual, noting that “pretty complex repairs with some sizable equipment” will continue through Thursday.
Gov. Roy Cooper said state and federal investigators “are working tirelessly in this investigation to identify those responsible.
“Protecting critical infrastructure like our electric system must be a top priority,” Cooper said at a news conference. “This attack takes the threat to a new level. We will evaluate ways to work with our utility providers and our state and federal officials to ensure we harden our infrastructure where necessary.”
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields declined to elaborate on the shooting on Monday, saying only that the damage was caused by the shooting. But whoever is in charge, he said, “knows what they’re doing … to cause the blackout that they did.”
Meanwhile, traffic lights went out across the county. Drivers see intersections as four-way stops, and in places like downtown Carthage, the constant honking of every non-functional light creates traffic jams.
Noah Hartford, an 18-year-old civil engineering student at Sandhills Community College, said that since the power went out at their home in Aberdeen, his The family has been struggling to keep warm. Temperatures dipped below freezing early Monday and are expected to dip into the low 40s this week.
“It was really cold,” Hartford said as he warmed up by a fire pit in nearby Southern Pines. “It’s just me, my mom and my brother. We’ve got a fire outside, and a fireplace, but we really hope we can get the heat back as soon as possible.”
On Monday morning, Kalai and Christine Balutski of Pine Bluff sat under a heater and sipped hot beverages in the Red Corner food truck parking lot in South Pines. The couple have been without power since 7pm on Saturday night. They said they have been driving to restaurants in the next county for a hot meal and watching a football game while waiting for an update.
“We have two dogs at home, so we can’t just leave,” Kalai Balutski said. “We’re using a power brick to charge our phones and lighting candles in a room to keep it warm enough to sleep in.”
Christine Balutski, wearing a hat, boots and a Pittsburgh Steelers jacket, said she had been struggling with a remote IT job she was doing for a hospital system without home WiFi access.
Phil Harris, executive director of the local American Red Cross chapter, said about 20 people stayed overnight in an emergency shelter at the Carthage County Stadium. Many more came to buy food, keep warm or recharge devices, Harris said.
“If you don’t have electricity, you probably don’t have any heating, so it’s a great place to stay as winter rolls around,” Harris said.
The Pinehurst Resort & Country Club was also affected. Due to The Carolina Hotel’s limited power generation capacity, the resort grouped all guests into rooms with available power. Golf courses remain open, but the main clubhouse is closed.
Golfing is available year-round in the Sandhills area, and Pinehurst Resort is a top pick. According to government employment data, Moore County has 3 employers — behind the local hospital and school systems. Moore County saw record visitor spending in 2021, resulting in a $673 million economic impact from tourism, according to the Moore County Economic Development Office.
There are dozens of golf courses in Moore County, nine of which are located at Pinehurst Resort. Pinehurst’s famous No. 2 course has hosted three men’s US Opens. The World Golf Hall of Fame is also about to move from Florida to Pinehurst.
Andrew Wilkins, an environmental advocate who grew up in Moore County, was driving from Washington to his parents’ small ranch in Whispering Pines Saturday night when he noticed the street lights in Carthage were out. . He came to a “dark street”.
Wilkins spent the weekend helping his parents prepare for cold nights without a heater and hooked up a generator to their well to draw fresh drinking water.
“People can really feel the pressure as things unfold,” Wilkins said.
Hannah Schoenbaum is a member of the Associated Press/US State House News Initiative.US report is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undisclosed issues.
Associated Press Writer Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.
___ A previous version of this report incorrectly stated that Pinehurst Resort has eight golf courses instead of nine.