All power has been restored in central North Carolina, where gunfire led to massive power outages, officials said Wednesday as a $75,000 reward was offered for information that leads to the shooter or shooters.
By 6 p.m. all homes and businesses in Moore County that had been plunged into darkness had power back on, four days after someone shot up two substations, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said.
Earlier Wednesday, officials said work crews were on a "final push" to get all lights turned on again. At its peak, around 45,000 Moore County customers were left without power, the utility has said.
"Today I'm happy to say that we began the final push to completion," Brooks told reporters in Carthage then. "We began bringing in customers a few thousand at a time. It was a phased approach, very manual."
Gov. Roy Cooper has called the shootings at two substations in Moore County, population 100,000, about 50 miles southwest of Raleigh, a “criminal attack.”
A $75,000 reward was posted, with $25,000 each from Cooper's office, Moore County and Duke Energy, officials said Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials were tight-lipped Wednesday about what their probe has unearthed, saying they didn't want to jeopardize the investigation.
No arrests have been announced and no suspect or suspects have been identified in the shooting at two substations around 5 miles apart Saturday.
“Every investigator working on this case, state, local and federal, know what you want, and that’s answers,” Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields told reporters.
"We want to know who and why, and we’re committed to getting you these answers.”
A hospital was left running on backup power, schools were closed, over 50 people stayed at a shelter Monday night, and the county set up spaces for people to take warm showers, do laundry and charge their phones.
“Whoever the perpetrator is — I can assure you, I hope they turn the power off in the cell they put you in,” Moore County Board of Commissioners Chairman Nick Picerno said Tuesday.
The power started going out in Moore County shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday, officials said, and investigators found the equipment had been struck by gunfire.
The person or people responsible drove to the substations, breaching a gate in one case, and opened fire, Fields has said.
The FBI is among the law enforcement agencies assisting in the investigation.
Duke Energy said the vandalism destroyed large and vital pieces of equipment, which needed to be replaced. The utility said that is a slow and methodical process, as well as testing.
The loss of power came as the calendar sped toward winter, with a corresponding drop in temperature.
Without power for central home heat, thousands of Sandhills region residents had to break out heavy blankets to deal with overnight low temperatures that reached freezing Sunday and Monday.
It has warmed up since that early-week freeze, with temperatures reaching into the 60s on Wednesday afternoon.
Leilani Tedtaotao and her family came to a church shelter for hot showers and warm food.
“Our house is really cold, around 56, 58 degrees right now,” she said Tuesday. “We don’t have any warm water.”
There was relief for around 10,000 customers whose power had been restored by Tuesday, Duke Energy said, although around 35,000 customers remained without electricity.
FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, a 402-bed facility in Pinehurst, was operating on backup power. The health system said there was no interruption to patient care.
Officials closed schools but hoped to reopen them Friday.
A state of emergency was declared, and a curfew of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. was imposed. The restoration of power led officials Wednesday to announce that the curfew will be lifted at 5 a.m. Thursday.
There have been no confirmed deaths due to the power outage, Moore County Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips said.
One person died in a home in an area without power, but the death hasn't been confirmed to have been related to the outage, he said at a news conference Tuesday.
Blayne Alexander reported from Carthage, North Carolina, David K. Li from New York and Phil Helsel from Los Angeles.