By Whitney Wild, Aileen Graef and Nouran Salahieh, CNN
With no heat or power for medical teams, some North Carolinians are staying in a shelter as crews scramble to restore power after what the state governor described as “Malicious” attacks on substations that plunged tens of thousands into darkness.
Power in Moore County is expected to be restored by Wednesday night, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks announced Tuesday.
But for now, schools are closed through Thursday, many stores and restaurants have closed, homes have no heat or refrigerators, drivers traverse intersections without traffic lights, and a countywide curfew is still in place from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. A.M
A Red Cross-run emergency shelter was set up at the Moore County Sports Complex to help provide shelter, food, showers and other services to those affected.
Nakasha Jackson, who came to the shelter to pick up some hot food, said the power outage has been difficult with her 1-year-old son.
“Without lights, without power, I really can’t do anything. The boy is afraid of the dark,” he told CNN.
Jackson said she sometimes has to travel up to an hour each way to buy food. “It’s ridiculous. It should never have been done,” Jackson said.
About 35,000 customers in Moore County remained without power Tuesday afternoon, according to Duke Energy.
Residents who rely on electrically powered medical equipment have also seen their lives turned upside down. One woman told CNN that she came to the shelter because she didn’t have power for her CPAP machine at night.
After two days of sleeping without him, she said she started to feel sick and went to the shelter for help.
Others have sought shelter fearing for their safety as they struggled to keep their homes warm. Amber Sampson and her fiancee came to the shelter because they “feel it’s safer.”
“It’s different. It’s a little hard to sleep, you know. But at the end of the day, I’d rather be in a place where it’s warm, where we have food, where we’re taken care of than to be in a place where it’s really cold,” Sampson said.
In addition to having to stay at the shelter, Sampson has been unable to work since Sunday after her employer also lost power, an issue that could end up costing her hundreds of dollars.
Widespread and costly power outage in Moore County started on saturday at night and lasted for days after two substations were damaged by gunfire, initially knocking out power to more than 40,000 customers. Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said whoever fired multiple rounds at the substations “knew exactly what they were doing.”
Authorities expressed anger over the alleged attacks, with Carol Haney, mayor of Southern Pines, a city of about 15,900 residents that lost power completely, calling it a cruel and selfish act.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper expressed concern for businesses and nursing home residents.
“When we look at all the money businesses are losing here at Christmas, when we look at the threats to people in nursing homes who have lost power, hospitals having to turn off generators and not being able to do certain types of operations in this Point: Those are all deep concerns here, and we can’t let this happen,” the governor said.
“This was a malicious criminal attack against the entire community,” Cooper told CNN on Tuesday.
Power may be back for thousands on Wednesday
Duke Energy, which has about 47,000 customers in Moore County, has made “significant progress” since Saturday, Brooks said, and expects most customers to have power back on Wednesday, just before midnight.
“That’s not going to happen all at once,” Brooks added. “You will see waves of customers arriving. A few thousand at a time.
Brooks has said from the beginning that restoring power will not be an easy task, as the gunfire damaged some equipment beyond repair.
“This is a very complicated process involving equipment that has been moved to the site for installation,” Brooks said at a news conference Tuesday. “It’s there, but now we’re going through the process of calibrating it, testing it and getting it ready to sync with the power grid, which is a very complex process.”
Meanwhile, 2,600 Randolph Electric customers in northern Moore County have been affected by the attacks, according to Randolph Electric CEO Dale Lambert.
Randolph Electric is also working to restore power to affected customers.
Governor: We need to protect critical infrastructure
Cooper told CNN that the state needs to learn from the incident and have a serious conversation about protecting critical infrastructure.
“It was clear that (whoever was behind the shooting) knew how to cause significant damage and could do it at this substation, so we have to reassess the situation,” Cooper said.
Brooks, the spokesman for Duke Energy, said it’s up to investigators to determine whether the person or people responsible for the outage knew how to cause widespread damage to the system.
“They got to the places that created the blackout, so take it for what it’s worth,” Brooks added.
No suspects or motives have been announced.
“There is deep concern in this community about who would do what and why,” the governor said.
the sheriff noted above “No group has come forward to acknowledge or accept that it was they who (did it).”
Investigators were trying to determine if both substations were tripped simultaneously or one after the other, the sheriff said Monday.
It is also unclear if there were cameras in the area when the substations were fired on. “That’s something that’s part of the investigation,” Cooper told CNN.
“If someone with a gun can cause that much damage and bring power to tens of thousands of people, then obviously we need to look at the different layers of infrastructure and hardening and make better decisions here,” Cooper said.
The CNN Wire
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CNN’s Amanda Musa, Amy Simonson, Sarah B. Boxer and Michelle Watson contributed to this report.