Moore County Energy: While North Carolina residents are recovering from accidents, investigators are investigating terrorism and threats to facilities across the US. One expert explains what needs to be done



CNN

A growing number of reports of threats to energy infrastructure following attacks on substations are being investigated. on South and on the West Coast as electricity becomes more urgent in the winter.

Before shootouts on saturday In Moore County, North Carolina, power was out for several days, with at least five electrical substations in Oregon and Washington under attack in November, according to energy companies.

While no motive or suspect has been identified for the attacks in North Carolina, investigators nulling on two possible streams focused on extremist behavior: extremist posts on online forums encouraging attacks on critical infrastructure, and a number of recent disruptions to LGBTQ+ events across the country by local extremists, law enforcement sources told CNN.

While investigators have no evidence linking the outage in Moore County to the drag that began there when the lights went out, the timing and context of armed clashes around similar LBGTQ+ events around the country are being considered, sources told CNN. The outage ended the Moore County drag show after spectators lit the stage with telephone torches, Sandhills PRIDE. said.

As investigators continue to search for clues and clues, detectives from the Moore County Sheriff’s Office have filed for a search warrant, Maj. C. Andy Conway told CNN Thursday, without giving details about the nature of the searches. He added that no arrest warrant had been issued.

The FBI warned of reports of threats to power infrastructure by people with racially or ethnically motivated extremist ideologies “to create civil unrest and encourage further violence,” the agency said in a Nov. 22 bulletin sent to the private sector.

A shooting near a power plant in Ridgway, South Carolina on Wednesday was accidental, Kershaw County Sheriff Lee Boan said Thursday. There, the FBI got involved in the investigation, but “the only connection between the shooting and the hydroelectric plant is their proximity,” Boan said.

In addition to incidents this month in South Carolina and North Carolina, where the light flickered again Wednesday:

• In Oregon, a Clackamas substation was damaged in a “deliberate physical assault” during the Thanksgiving holiday, a Bonneville Energy Authority spokesman told CNN. “BPA operators found a cut perimeter fence and damaged equipment inside,” a spokesman said, adding that the company is working with the FBI on the incident.

• In Washington State, “there were two incidents at two different substations in late November,” a spokesman for Puget Sound Energy told CNN. “Both incidents are currently being investigated by the FBI,” the report said, adding, “We are aware of the recent threats to power systems across the country and take them very seriously.”

And in mid-November, two Kaulitz County utility substations were vandalized in the Woodland area, agency spokeswoman Alice Dietz told The Seattle Times. “We have no further comment at this point…Our facilities have since been refurbished,” Dietz said in an interview with The Times. CNN has reached out to the FBI office in Seattle for comment.

Thousands of electrical substations help keep communities across the country alive. Now some residents are wondering if others might be at risk of attack.

“I think the short answer is yes,” said David Terry, executive director of the National Association of Energy Public Employees.

“The electrical grid is a massive, interconnected machine for the most part. It is impossible to secure every node.”

In recent years, “state, federal (and) industry leaders have taken steps to protect critical nodes,” Terry said. “But, in particular, there remain substations that we, unfortunately, cannot protect indefinitely.”

Terry says reducing the risk of accidents from attacks on energy infrastructure requires a comprehensive approach.

“There are actually two parts: one is strengthening the infrastructure. This certainly continues to happen, but the threat is growing even faster,” he said.

Such fortification may include the construction of walls around electrical substations or the addition of armed guards.

“The second part is to be more resilient,” Terry said. “So you see the state power industry, government energy directors across the country working with their utilities and the Department of Energy … on things like microgrids and back-up power for critical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes.”

Anti-government groups over the past two years have begun using Internet forums to urge followers to attack critical infrastructure, including the power grid. They posted documents and even instructions describing vulnerabilities and suggesting the use of high-powered rifles.

One 14-page guide obtained by CNN cites as an example a 2013 sniper attack on a high-voltage substation on the edge of Silicon Valley that destroyed 17 transformers and cost Pacific Gas and Electric $15 million to repair.

The caliber of bullets in this incident in California is different from the caliber of bullets used in North Carolina, a law enforcement source told CNN.

Randolph Electric Membership Corporation workers attempt to repair the Eastwood substation in West End, North Carolina on Tuesday.

But whoever attacked the North Carolina substationsknew exactly what they were doingMoore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said.

Law enforcement sources told CNN that investigators found nearly two dozen high-powered rifle shells around the damaged substations. Although no rifles have been found, ballistics can still provide important evidence. According to sources, bullets recovered from the transformer substation and brass shells found nearby are also being examined.

The shell casings can be entered into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives database and matched with any other shell casings fired from the same weapon at a different crime scene, or with the weapon itself if found. The location of the shells can also give clues.

On Wednesday, the sheriff asked the public for any CCTV footage from the affected areas and announced a $75,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.

Someone who lives near the West End substation heard about 20 shots in a row the night of the attack on the station, he told the CNN affiliate. WRAL. According to him, after that, the electricity did not turn off for about 30 minutes.

“My wife and I were just sitting on the couch watching a movie, and all of a sudden, around 8:45 a.m., there were about 20 shots fired right across the street,” Spencer Matthews told WRAL.

The outages have damaged the local economy and paralyzed the daily lives of more than 45,000 homes and businesses. And just because the electricity is back on doesn’t mean the pain is gone.

According to Moore County Superintendent Wayne West, businesses have “lost huge sums over the past few days.” More than 600 food service businesses were affected by the outages, Moore County Health Director Matt Garner said.

“We know that our inhabitants will end the day and pass the night in strength, light and safety. But there is another part of our population that is still suffering… and that is our local merchants,” said Pinehurst Mayor John Strickland.

“If you’re dining out, if you’re only going out once, go out twice,” West said. “If you were going to go to the store and buy one pack, buy two packs.”