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Vandals may be responsible for Moore County, NC, power outage

The Moore County Sheriff’s Office is investigating suspected vandalism to electrical substations.

The Moore County Sheriff’s Office is investigating suspected vandalism to electrical substations.

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Vandals are suspected to have intentionally damaged electrical substations in Moore County on Saturday night, shutting off power to 45,000 customers and prompting law enforcement officers to accompany crews sent to make repairs.

Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Duke Energy, said the power went off after 8 p.m. When crews responded, they found “multiple equipment failures” at several substations and what appeared to be intentional damage, Brooks said.

The Moore County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, according to Brooks.

Asked about reports on social media that people had heard gunshots before the outage, Brooks said he couldn’t comment on whether the damage looked like it might have resulted from gunfire.

Brooks said crews were still evaluating the damage late Saturday and could not say how long repairs would take.

The Pilot in Southern Pines reported that a news release from the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said “evidence was discovered that indicated that intentional vandalism had occurred at multiple sites.“

Protest over drag show

Earlier in the day, protesters had gathered outside the Sunrise Theater in downtown Southern Pines, upset about a drag queen show planned for the small venue Saturday night. On her Facebook page, Emily Grace Rainey posted an invitation to the protest.

After the lights went out out, Rainey, who became known in Moore County during the pandemic for her opposition to mask mandates, posted on Facebook that, “The power is out in Moore County and I know why.”

Later, she posted that the Moore County Sheriff’s Office had come to her house to ask about the outage.

“I welcomed them to my home,” wrote Rainey, who organized a group of Moore County residents to travel to Washington on January 6, 2021. “Sorry they wasted their time. I told them that God works in mysterious ways and is responsible for the outage. I used the opportunity to tell them about the immoral drag show and the blasphemies screamed by its supporters.”

Rainey said, “I told them God is chastising Moore County, thanked them for coming, and wished them a good night. Thankful for the LEOs service, as always.”

Phone flashlights and Beyoncé

The drag show started at 7 p.m. and was under way when the power went out. Headliner Naomi Dix kept the show going until almost 9 p.m.

“I asked that everyone turn on their phone flashlights to illuminate the room,” Dix said. “I then lead the crowd in singing Beyoncé’s ‘Halo.’”

Brooks said Duke Energy crews would continue to work on the problem and the company would update customers about power restoration as soon as information is available.

This story was originally published December 4, 2022 1:44 AM.

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.