On the third full day since an intentional attack left thousands of homes and businesses in Moore County without power, residents’ lives continued to be upended Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the sabotage is continuing at a “fast pace” as the county’s tip line receives a heavy volume of calls, said Chief Deputy Richard Maness. That number is 910-947-4444.
A curfew continues and schools will remain closed, but Duke Energy now expects power to return by midnight Wednesday.
Michaela Guden, nanny to a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, said she has been scrambling to find places to go and things to do.
On Tuesday, she brought the children to the public library in Southern Pines, which is using generator power to provide internet access and a place for people to charge their devices.
“The community coming together in all of these ways has just been so nice,” Guden said. “It’s weird. You get into a routine and this just kind of crumbled all of that out of nowhere. It screwed everything up. But it’s OK because we have been going places. We don’t normally go and interact with people we don’t normally see. It’s been kind of refreshing.”
Guden said it’s grown cold at her house, and getting out to the few businesses that are open and warm has been a welcome escape.
Possible changes to state laws
She is one of the tens of thousands of residents in Moore County left to suffer the consequences after the targeted attack on two electrical substations cut off the power in the central and southern parts of the county.
Officials say more than 40,000 homes and businesses were affected by the outage that began Saturday evening when someone shot into the substations.
On Tuesday, power was restored in Carthage, the county seat, but more than 34,000 Moore County residents remain without heat and electricity.
State Sen. Tom McInnis, a Moore County Republican, said at an afternoon news conference that the legislature will consider changing the state’s criminal laws so that penalties for this new type of crime will be equal to the pain it has caused.
Moore County Commissioners Chairman Nick Picerno offered this thought for the perpetrator: ”I hope they turn the power off in the cell they put you in.”
One woman has died in a house with no power since the outage began, but investigators do not know if her death came through natural causes, said Bryan Phillips, county public safety director.
As state and federal officials investigate the damage, no arrests have been made and no suspects have been named yet.
Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference that helping vulnerable people in the county was a top priority as investigators look into the “criminal attack.”
“Making sure that people are warm as the night approaches, making sure people are cared for, making sure that critical services and hospitals and law enforcement and emergency management services are supported and available,” he said.
Until Tuesday afternoon, officials predicted most of the power would be restored as late as Thursday, however Duke Energy is now estimating most of their customers to have fully restored on Wednesday night.
On Sunday, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields announced a curfew and declared a state of emergency until the power is restored.
‘You just keep living life’
Moore County, located southwest of Raleigh, is home to more than 99,000 residents. The power outage is mostly located in the areas of Carthage, Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen, Whispering Pines and Lakeview.
Almost 15,000 customers in the Aberdeen area were affected.
More than 7,000 customers in the Pinehurst area were affected.
More than 6,800 customers in the Southern Pines area were affected.
More than 6,000 customers in the Whispering Pines and Lakeview areas were affected.
More than 100 customers in the Carthage area were affected.
In Carthage, crowds poured into Food Lion, where nearly everything got tossed out during the outage and was quickly being restocked.
Nick Arnold, manager of City Barber Shop downtown, is working around the outage to provide service to people.
“Lighting is a big factor with the haircuts obviously,” he said. “We’ve done haircuts in the dark many times, but it’s not something I was ready to tackle.”
Rachel Haviley, 35, owner of Limitless Meal Supply, also located downtown, is having a family-style dinner for all the friends who don’t have power.
“We have a gas oven back there,” she said. “We ran all our refrigerators off of generators. It definitely impacted people in many ways — monetarily, emotionally — but you just keep living life.”
Her store got power restored about 8 a.m. Tuesday.
In Southern Pines, about 20 minutes from Carthage, Grace Church served hundreds of hot meals Tuesday.
Most were prepared by a food truck belonging to church member Dave Whitney, who owns Mac’s Breakfast Anytime restaurant.
Church members cooked in bulk at home as well and brought items to the church to include in meals delivered to the homebound.
Lead Pastor Ryan Peterson, who greeted people as they arrived at the church, said the feeding effort was important because it lifts peoples’ spirits.
“We’re helping people connect,” Ryan said, as the smell of fried chicken beckoned to drivers passing the big church on US 15-501. “That’s what we’re born for, to come out of our houses and be together.”
The lunch was offered from noon until 2 p.m. Peterson said he did not yet know whether the meal could be provided again on Wednesday.
Hot showers and laundry
In Pinehurst, the downtown area that would normally be bustling in the late afternoon, is lifeless.
“To not see people is so bizarre,” said real estate agent Linda Criswell. “You’d think a snowstorm was coming.”
The town has just over 13,000 residents, and more than half of them remained without power into Tuesday.
Pinehurst is home to the popular golf resort, which has attracted visitors all year for the past 100 years. The resort is also one of the main sources of income for many in Moore County.
The golf resort is sleepy without power. Only 30 of the 400 rooms at the resort are occupied, according to Matt Chriscoe, the director of hotel operations.
In the areas outside of Pinehurst, the power remained stubbornly out.
Leilani Tedtaotao took her 6-year-old to First Baptist Church in West End, where he was busily drawing black holes and munching free chicken nuggets.
“It’s cold, for the most part,” she said. “We have opted not to purchase a generator. We are bundling up, and we have lots of blankets. We had to throw all our food out.”
Outside, the NC Baptist Men set up a mobile hot shower and laundry, and cooked a large vat of beef stew and green beans. Dinner is to be served until 5 p.m., with showers running until 9 Tuesday night.
“If you haven’t had a hot shower in three days,” said First Baptist pastor Russ Rowland, “this is a life-changing experience. Have a hot cup of coffee and someone will do your laundry.”
Hundreds of people have flocked to the Southern Pines Public Library since Monday, according to itsFacebook page. Staff had to replenish snacks, drinks and essentials multiple times as people sought them and a warm place to stay.
They are requesting donations of non-perishable snacks and foods, coffee pods, hot cocoa, bottled water and disposable cups for hot drinks. Other items like baby wipes, hot hands and other clean up items are also appreciated to “make this time without easy access to showers, heat, and electricity more bearable,” the Facebook post said.
Resources and reporting outages
Temperatures were expected to drop to about 46 degrees Tuesday night across the county, according to the National Weather Service.
An emergency shelter at the Moore County Sportsplex is open and is located off of N.C. 22 and U.S. 15-501 in Carthage.
Power outages can be reported at readync.gov/stay-informed/power-outages or at outagereport.duke-energy.com/#/report-outage/home/find-account or by calling 800-769-3766.