Officials have issued a warning about threats to the nation’s infrastructure after a shooting that damaged two power substations in a North Carolina County and caused thousands of homes to lose power was labeled a “targeted” attack.
Days before the attack, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin via its National Terrorism Advisory System cautioning that “lone offenders and small groups” may commit acts of violence on various targets, including crucial infrastructure in the nation, and that the “United States remains in a heightened threat environment.”
The bulletin comes in the wake of a report released in January by the DHS, which warned that since at least 2020, homegrown extremists have been formulating “credible, specific plans” to attack electrical infrastructure.
The report issued a warning that extremists “adhering to a range of ideologies will likely continue to plot and encourage physical attacks against electrical infrastructure.”
The nation is covered by more than 6,400 power plants and 450,000 miles of transmission lines.
Many utility customers were without power for several days after Moore County, North Carolina’s two electrical substations were shot up. More than 45,000 customers were left without power during the worst of the outage, which occurred in subfreezing conditions.
It was the most recent of several dangers to the power grid over the previous ten years.
In 2013, after a sniper attack on a power substation in California, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered grid operators to bolster security. The case remains unsolved but caused power outages and millions of people were advised to conserve energy.
After firing a rifle at a substation’s cooling fins in 2016, a man from Utah was detained and later given a federal prison sentence. This action led to the substation overheating and failing. According to court documents, the man intended to attack additional substations in order to shut down electricity in some areas of the western United States.
The outages started around seven o’clock. Fields claims that on Saturday in Carthage, North Carolina, one or more people “opened fire” at two substations. Then, according to Fields, outages spread to parts of Moore County’s center and south.
A power provider in North Carolina named Duke Energy stated that it anticipates Moore County to have power again on Wednesday just before midnight. The company initially estimated that power would be restored by Thursday morning.
An improvement from the peak of the outage on Saturday, when more than 45,000 customers lost power, when about 35,000 customers were still without power on Tuesday, the company added. According to the company’s Tuesday afternoon statement, Duke Energy has been working to replace and fix “large and vital pieces of equipment.” According to Sam Stephenson, a power delivery specialist for Duke Energy, the company has also implemented “rolling power-ups” to provide power in two- to three-hour waves to some customers in the northern part of Moore County.
A one-hour drive southwest of Raleigh, North Carolina, is Moore County, which has a population of about 100,000.
Despite the fact that investigators have not disclosed their motive or named a suspect, authorities have called for upgrades to crucial infrastructure.
The attack, according to state fire marshal and insurance commissioner Mike Causey of North Carolina, was “a wake-up call to provide better security at our power substations.”
Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina spoke about the county’s short- and long-term plans early on Tuesday and demanded an evaluation of the state’s critical infrastructure during the monthly Council of State meeting, which also covered how to bolster security and prevent further attacks.
Cooper said at the meeting that the state has sent generators to the county and is aiding in providing food for the populace. Law enforcement is also closely watching nearby substations.
The National Weather Service predicts milder temperatures for Tuesday night and Wednesday for Moore County residents without power who experienced below-freezing temperatures overnight.
On Monday night, there were about 54 people staying at the Carthage County sports complex’s emergency shelter, up from 19 the night before. The shelter has been visited by numerous other residents who have needed food, warmth, showers, or device charging.
According to Bryan Phillips, Moore County Public Safety director, investigators are trying to determine whether a death in the county was caused by a medical issue or by the power outage. According to him, the deceased resident was without power.