A North Carolina county rocked by electricity outages after shootings targeting two power substations damaged critical infrastructure will have power restored by Wednesday evening, the utility company said.
Moore County has been under a state of emergency since Sunday, with authorities imposing a curfew and closing schools amid power outages that affected tens of thousands of residents.
Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, told reporters Tuesday that the company managed to speed up the timeline for power restoration and would gradually bring customers back online, according to CNN.
A view of the substation in Carthage, N.C., on Dec. 5, after tens of thousands of customers were left without power.
“You will see waves of customers coming on. A few thousand at a time,” Brooks said. As of Tuesday afternoon, about 35,000 customers were still without electricity.
The outages were caused by shootings targeting two Duke Energy substations on Saturday, affecting about 45,000 people. The substations were hit by multiple rounds of fire.
This photos shows the gate to the Duke Energy West End substation in Moore County, N.C. on Dec. 4, 2022.
“Early evidence suggests that it was deliberate and the investigation is underway,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety told CBS News that authorities are now working to secure other power stations across the state.
Officials on Tuesday said a Moore County resident died during the power outage, according to NBC Affiliate WRAL News. It is unclear if the death was linked to the blackout.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have joined the probe.
“I think investigators are leaving no stone unturned as to what this is. They are looking at every motivation that could possibly occur here, and they want to find the perpetrator,” Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said Monday.
Rumors circulating on social media have suggested the reason behind the “targeted” shootings was to stop a drag performance slated for Saturday evening in Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines, according to NBC News.
The suspicion was triggered by a social media post authored by Emily Rainey, an ex-U.S. Army psychological operations officer who claimed to “know why” the power outages took place. Rainey has previously condemned drag performances in the state and left the Army amid an investigation into her role in leading a group to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, NBC News reported.
At a press conference Sunday, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields confirmed that deputies had interviewed Rainey, but said her claim “turned out to be nothing,” according to Newsweek. Rainey claimed in another post that she’d been “officially cleared by law enforcement” of wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, a Moore County Sheriff’s Office spokesman wouldn’t confirm or deny whether she was a person of interest in the case.
“We have not officially cleared or implicated anyone at this point,” the spokesman told HuffPost.
Andy Campbell contributed reporting.