Authorities in a North Carolina county where 40,000 customers lost power say two power substations were damaged by gunfire Saturday night.
A gate at one of the locations also appears to have been taken off its hinges, Mike Cameron of the Southern Pines Fire and Rescue Department told CNN on Sunday afternoon.
The power outage in Moore County is being investigated as a “criminal occurrence” after crews found signs of potential vandalism at several locations, CNN previously reported.
Moore County officials have scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. Sunday.
Cameron said the area is experiencing increased emergency calls due to the lack of power, adding that auto accidents have occurred because traffic lights are out. People who rely on oxygen have placed emergency calls, he said.
Initially, local officials estimated power would be restored Sunday evening, but Cameron said after assessing the damage, they’ve determined it could take at least until Monday.
The equipment that was damaged is not easily replaceable and will have to be brought in to make the repairs, Cameron said.
A local supermarket is distributing ice to impacted residents, according to a news release from grocery chain Harris Teeter.
The power outage has also led officials to cancel Monday classes for all schools in the county. “An announcement will be made tomorrow evening to inform parents and staff of the status of schools for Tuesday,” Moore County Schools said in a tweet Sunday afternoon.
Several communities across the county began experiencing power outages just after 7 p.m. Saturday, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.
“As utility companies began responding to the different substations, evidence was discovered that indicated that intentional vandalism had occurred at multiple sites,” the office said.
At least two substations were vandalized “with criminal intent,” US Rep. Richard Hudson said Sunday morning in a release.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI are responding, according to Hudson. He said the motive remains unknown.
Hudson, whose congressional district includes Moore County, said the Southern Pines Police Department has opened a community center for residents to charge devices.
CNN has reached out to Southern Pines police and the FBI.
More than 38,000 customers were without power across the county Sunday morning, according to the Duke Energy outage map. According to poweroutage.us, about 41,000 customers had lost power in Moore County and neighboring Hoke County.
Crews were experiencing “multiple equipment failures” that are affecting substations in Moore County, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks told CNN affiliate WRAL.
“We are also investigating signs of potential vandalism related to the outages,” Brooks said.
Deputies and officers from other law enforcement agencies responded to the different sites to provide security, according to the sheriff’s office.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Sunday tweeted that state law enforcement would join the investigation.
“I have spoken with Duke Energy and state law enforcement officials about the power outages in Moore County. They are investigating and working to return electricity to those impacted,” Cooper said. “The state is providing support as needed.”
Moore County is in central North Carolina, about 50 miles northwest of Fayetteville.