This photos shows the gate to the Duke Energy West End substation in Moore County, N.C. on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. Tens of thousands were without power in the county after what authorities say was an act of criminal vandalism at multiple substations. The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines reported that infrastructure at the West End substation was damaged. (John Nagy/The Pilot via AP)
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Gunfire raked multiple pieces of large equipment at a 230kV substation in Moore County, North Carolina Saturday evening, plunging about 40,000 residents into darkness. Because of the type of “sophisticated” equipment that was damaged, those folks will remain in the dark for at least a few more days.

Authorities didn’t release information on how many shots caused the failure or the type of firearms used.

NPR has the story . . .

A North Carolina county is under a state of emergency following a mass power outage that could leave tens of thousands of people without electricity for days to come. The outage, which the authorities believe to be intentionally caused by gunfire, is now being investigated as a criminal act.

“We faced something last night, here in Moore County, that we’ve never faced before,” the county’s sheriff, Ronnie Fields, said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon. “But I promise you, we are going to get through this, and we are going to get through this together.”

The county is also under curfew between 9 p.m. on Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday. The county-wide curfew could remain in place for the next few days, according to the sheriff. The Moore County Parks and Recreation Sports Complex is now operating as a shelter while schools are closed for Monday.

The mass power outage across Moore County, about an hour outside of Raleigh, began shortly after 7 p.m. on Saturday after multiple power substations were damaged by what authorities described in a statement as “intentional vandalism.” The substations will require a “sophisticated repair,” Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks said at the conference, which will require new equipment and could take until Thursday to complete.

From the AP . . .

“An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” Gov. Roy Cooper wrote on Twitter.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said at a Sunday news conference that authorities have not determined a motivation. He said someone pulled up and “opened fire on the substation, the same thing with the other one.”

“No group has stepped up to acknowledge or accept that they’re the ones that done it,” Fields said, adding “we’re looking at all avenues.”

The sheriff noted that the FBI was working with state investigators to determine who was responsible. He also said “it was targeted.”

Wild theories were tossed out for the cause of the targeted attack. Some posited the shooting was the result of opposition to a live drag show taking place in Southern Pines on Saturday.

Hosts “Naomi Dix” from “Durham’s House of Coxx” claimed they had received violent threats before the show.

At the same time, the demand for hate, racism and bigotry in America has oftentimes greatly exceeded the actual supply as many attacks initially thought and reported to have been hate crimes have turned out to be staged or fake.

Whatever the motive of those who took down much of the county’s electrical service, ZeroHedge closed out their report of the incident with this . . .

The fact that mere small arms fire can cause such a widespread and lasting loss of power should serve as a reminder to enhance your preparation for disaster. 

Amen.

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100 COMMENTS

  1. This has been a well known vulnerability of the electrical power grid for decades.
    Any terrorist of two with a deer rifle could bring down a large area.
    Trouble makers with friends and a plan could cause a major grid collapse.
    Wake up people!
    Geez…..

    • This was a test. They learned how long after a few shots were fired did the equipment keep running. If there was any kind of quick response. And how long will it take to repair.
      A report a few years ago claimed that the entire grid could be brought down with as few as 7 to 13 stations around the country being hit.
      Thus isn’t off the shelf equipment. I doubt it’s even made in this country in today’s world.

      • JD,

        It isn’t (made in this country), the lead times are months, if not years. The vulnerability of our grid has been documented, and lamented over, since AT LEAST the early 60s.

        Meaningful actions to address that = zero.

      • Electrical power transmission and resilience In challenging environments was my bread and butter. I was a senior advisor to the secretary of energy and I still do this work abroad.
        It does not take seven substations. It takes one substation going down in the right place at the right time. And when it goes down, it will not come back up for tens of thousands of Americans for over a year. Four substations at the right place at the right time and power would be out for millions for over a year.
        This is not secret knowledge. This is well published and well understood. Why hasn’t it been fixed? Because the fix requires a massive rib and replace and Americans don’t want to double their electrical bills for something that might happen, and might not.

        • it is no much of a secret now–maybe this not some of the news that needs reporting–there was an old saying–“loose lips sink –“,—something that should be remembered

        • anon, there’s literally a recent New York Times bestseller detailing the problems.
          Check out Light Out by Ted Koppel.

        • jwt, I’m looking at a copy of Aurora laying on my coffee table now. My family was talking about it Thanksgiving. Interesting read.

        • The longest lead item is the transformer. They are custom made and not stocked. Disable the transformer and it would be a lasting outage. Especially if more than one were hit. Need to penetrate the tank and damage the windings.

        • +1 on Lights Out by Ted Koppel.
          Get informed people.

          JWTaylor, my hat off to you good sir.

      • Agreed…try out your tactics in a small rural area, which will be quickly forgotten. Probably do another test or two, learn the lessons, then hits everywhere at a time they, whomever they are, decide on.

    • I do not believe that this was criminal vandalism. Rather, it was intentional sabotage.

      If you doubt this very real possibility, review the April, 2013 intentional sabotage of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Metcalf transmission substation in Coyote, California, near the border of San Jose. And note especially that replacing the transformers takes a long time–easily on the order of 30 days and quite possibly much longer.

      My best guess is that a foreign nation who despises the United States did this punish our nation. And the list of potential suspects is pretty short, with China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia at the top of the list. I would not rule out one of the major Muslim terrorist groups, either.

      • If I remember correctly, the 2013 incident you spoke of revealed 7.62x 39 projectiles in the tanks that hold an oil or coolant. Security cameras showed the perpetrators used flashlights to coordinate. The act reached the level of suspecting international terrorism.

      • Targeting Moore County, NC? iirc, it’s in the middle of nowhere, south of Raleigh and NW of Fayette-nam, far ESE of Charlotte. Much better targets literally anywhere else in NC I’d think. My guess is it was tactikids just f’ing around, but who knows?

      • We mostly converse in English on this site, champ. Go back to your “Google Translate” app, and try again. Or don’t bother, since it is exceedingly unlikely that you have anything to say worth the time of reading it.

        Perhaps petition to join the dacian the demented, MajorStupidity, jsled, Prince Albert afternoon circle jerk. You sound like you’d fit right in.

  2. “The fact that mere small arms fire can cause such a widespread and lasting loss of power should serve as a reminder to enhance your preparation for disaster.”

    Down here, the local utilities used some of their 9-11 anti-terror money they got to build 10-foot high concrete walls around every electric substation to provide a degree of protection.

    Did similar protections exist around the sub-stations attacked? If not, I hope they re-consider…

    • For the majority of the eastern seaboard above DC no such protective measures taken and few scenarios of such incidents considered despite multiple reports and analysis suggesting it would be a good idea. Don’t get me started on keeping replacements available for emergency let alone normal equipment run time. Very happy it’s not my field anymore but only ever saw much of your reinforcements once you hit hurricane zones. Hope it’s more common now but this has been a worry of mine since before I was enlisted.

    • No Geoff, they do not. Chain link fence. I drove by the substation last night on the way to work, so that’s a first-hand account.

  3. The irony. Some arsewipe with a small arm can take out two substations in a matter of minutes. Yet, despite all the hardware available, Russia hasn’t shut down Ukraine. Makes you wonder about the propaganda from the war, ehhh?

      • Elmer Fudd,

        I don’t know about years to replace a couple high-voltage transformers.

        In the last year or two, one of the high-voltage transformers failed in the tiny substation which serves my semi-rural area. It took the local electric utility something like a day or two to cobble a short-term fix and install it. Then it took them something like two to four weeks to get the permanent replacement transformer and install it.

        Of course I am referring to a one-off event. If someone sabotaged dozens of high-voltage transformers over the course of one or two days, that very well could take years to replace.

        • They more than likely got the spare part from another power company or state!!!

          To build a substation from ground up it takes years.. And the majority are built in China!!!

        • It all depends on the physical size, voltage and amperage rating of the transformer. The metal cans bolted to the power pole in front of your house are mass produced. b Utilities keep large numbers in stock. Ditto for the transformers in underground utility vaults. However; the larger, higher voltage, higher wattage transformers for the major transmission lines are another matter. These transformers weigh a hundred to two hundred or more tons. They are shipped long distance by rail then transferred to heavy haul trailers. Think 16 axles and 64 wheels compared to the 4+1 axle “big rigs” you see on the interstate. A larger utilities might have one or a few in stock, but most utilities would have to have them shipped in. The manufacturers seldom stock them and then no more than a few. The manufacturers usually require a year or two lead time to build one custom.

          Ukraine seems to be enduring the Russian attacks on their energy grid. However; Russia has been going slow to dismember the Ukrainian grid to give Kiev time and motivation to shut down and cool down all of their nuclear power plants so that the attacks will not trigger a meltdown. Ukraine is limping along by cutting power to industries, rotating blackouts and lots of backup generators. Residents of Kiev who live in high rise buildings are now without power, water or sewer They are now advised to carry their chamber pots downstairs then dig holes to bury their poop and piss. Once the ground freezes, digging holes will not be an option. People will just pour the contents of their chamber pots out from their balconies or windows.

          It is going to be mid evil. Oxcarts will be driven around with drivers calling, “bring out your dead! bring out your dead.”

        • A tornado took out the substation in my little town a couple years ago. Went right through it. they had it REBUILT in a week.
          some crews have their stuff together, some don’t.

      • “A few tons each…”

        Hardly.

        A few years ago, I was mechanic-ing on a shipping port cargo crane, where we off-loaded a Siemens HV transformer. It was 14′ tall, 30′ long, and over 10′ wide, and weighed-in at 89 LT (long tons) – just shy of 200,000 lbs! Made in Europe somewhere. Beautiful piece of equipment.

        And this was a small-ish one…

  4. I often wonder why this isn’t more common. The grid is ridiculously fragile for all who depend on it and this has been known and discussed for decades.

    One of those things where the people in charge figure if they just keep their mouths shut they won’t have to pony up the cash to do something about it? Oh well. Just send another $50 billion to Ukraine and put a few thousand more illegals up in hotels. Priorities.

    • The Grid is like the pumps and dikes around New Orleans. There had been “talk” and planning to upgrade the system for over 100 years to upgrade the system…and the results of that talk were seen in the catastrophic destruction caused by Katrina. The grid collapsed when Texas got too much snow. Has anything changed? No, now the government is all in on increasing our reliance of electrical power, a push that will be catastrophic unless a massive overhaul is made.This stupidity is equaled only by the almost total reliance on lithium ion batteries the production of which is tremendously harmful to the environment. Idiots.

      • Mark,

        You got somethin’ against NOLA dykes?? Bigot!!

        But, kidding aside, I totally agree with you. Rational thought vanished from the discussion of energy policy decades ago, and today we are beset by ignorant babbling, competing narratives, and unscientific wishcasting.

        I would actually love to see a serious, scientific, rational discussion of where we should be going on energy policy, short-term, medium-term, and long-term. And the chances that we’ll actually get that are the same as the chances we’ll elect an honest politician.

  5. The world is a dangerous and uncertain place to live. It always has been. Our infrastructure is fragile. That can complicate things. Act/plan accordingly. A little bit of anything is a good place to start.

  6. If someone really wanted to stop a drag show from happening, I think they would come up with another way without putting 40,000 people in the dark.

  7. This is not the first time someone has shot at an electric grid substation. Its not unique. Sometimes its intentional, like this one. It also happens a few times just about every hunting season in various areas of the country.

  8. This happened a few years ago in South San Jose CA.
    I said it then and I will say it now, our infrastructure is really at risk.
    Not just power, but generation facilities, transmission lines, trunk internet cables.
    It wouldn’t take much to take out whole states, and watch urban areas like San Francisco and LA turn into chaos.

    • I’ve spent the past year and a few thousand dollars equipping my home with a backup system that’s completely separate from our Edison grid. Here in SoCal, the danger of brownouts and local failures lasting days is real, and mostly from overloaded equipment during heat waves. When it’s 112 degrees (which it does reach every Summer), you cannot last long without power, so I now have a small scale system with the ability to keep the fridge, A/C, and fans going for up to a week. Keeping the house’s interior from rising above 85 is a must.

        • Not speaking for him (obviously), it’s possible if things go that far sideways, he has plans to re-locate to a safer area.

          (Though I agree plans for 2 or more weeks is well-worth consideration…)

        • @Epstine spelled incorrectly on purpose??

          Solar battery bank, computer controlled, with a smart generator hooked up to it that runs on LPG and/or gasoline, and kicks in only when it senses the bank’s level down at 20%. That setup should last a full week by itself. However, the bank also accepts charging input from solar panels at the same time, and though I have a “starter” level of 200W nominal, I want to roof-mount an array of panels to assist. During a heat wave, there will be ample sunshine that would provide enough input to extend the lifespan of the dual fuel generator for *checks notes* perhaps triple. It all depends upon how much panel wattage I choose to put up on the roof.

    • I remember hearing about a scam ongong in Colordo some yars back, when copper prices were goung through the ionosphere. KNuckleheads would go find a ling stratch of lonely road, take out a decent sized center power deer rifle, hit the lrge bare copper high voltage lines, clip all three at one pole. then drive a ile or so up the roae clip them again. Now the section lying on the ground was isolated. Roll t up toss it into the back of your pickup and you have several hundred ponds of clean copper. Take it into a scrapyard in some big city and take the cash.. a thousand bucks or more.

      The foil came when the power companies begain roll-marking te wire putting their name or something like that every couple of feet. Now when someone taks that into the scrap buyer they check…and when they KNOW the wire is stolen utility property they would make sure LE are called in, the thieves would get busted. Put paid to that meme pretty quickly.

      • “KNuckleheads would go find a ling stratch of lonely road, take out a decent sized center power deer rifle, hit the lrge bare copper high voltage lines, clip all three at one pole. ”

        The large high-voltage power lines are aluminum, not copper. The long-distance losses are manageable when the voltage is upped to the hundreds of thousands of volts. The substations knock that down to something like 4,700 VAC, if memory serves. It’s actually aluminum all the way down to the feeds from the pole to your individual house.

        To replace those lines with copper would bankrupt the country…

        • Geoff,

          Substations step-down the voltage of the long-distance transmission lines to various lower voltages, all in the several thousands of volts, for local distribution.

          Around my area, common local distribution voltages are 13,300 volts and 6,650 volts–with 6,650 volts feeding the small transformers which step that down to 240 volts for home electric service.

          And that makes sense if you think about it. Trying to step-down 435000 volts to 240 volts in a single transformer is not practical–and unnecessary. It is far more practical (in terms of transformer design and manufacture) to step-down 435000 volts in two or three stages to the local distribution voltages.

      • Scrap dealers have machines that quickly strip the insulation off like pealing a banana. Copper goes to China, plastic to recyclers. They don’t give a hoot whose name is on the wire.

        Imagine what big blue cities would be like if they lost power for a month.

  9. When Ted Koppel’s book, Lights Out, was published he mainly focused on cyber-attack on the grid.
    However, he did mention physical attacks, how remote substations are vulnerable, even electrical lines.
    IIRC, in order to just upgrade, modernize the grid the cost was 1trillion.
    That was before this whole go green, EV craze. Add in that crazy, and the price is a lot more.
    We take the grid for granted. Flip on the switch, and the lights come on. The fridge is always on, keeping our milk and beer cold, the chicken nuggets are frozen, and there are ice cubes. Heating, cooling.
    I wonder if those people whom are affected are going to take notes, and maybe buy a few sleeping bags, blankets, some means of heating up a can of soup.
    NAH! What am I thinking!

    • Please be safe.

      Linemen have my full respect. Those are the folks that sometimes sleep in their trucks when the outages are massive…

  10. Makes me glad I’m off grid. And demonstrates just how vulnerable the power grid really is. Knock out a handful of substations and entire sections of the country will go dark. A few simple preparations on both the public and private levels could easily mitigate the effects.
    How many home owners have even basic emergency supplies? How many municipalities have back up generators for emergency use? We as a society are entirely too dependent on technology for basic survival. Have a back up plan for such power outages. Will you be able to heat at least a single room in your home if the grid goes down for a week? Will you be able to cook food, or get water?
    Now, whoever did this, if caught, should be charged with terrorism. I don’t give a crap about their politics, or their excuse for doing this. You endangered thousands of innocent people and adversely effected the lives of people with no connection to whatever this was about. If caught, the perpetrator should be if not shot as a terrorist, imprisoned for life. Or, if that is too harsh, forced to pay for all the repairs and damages.

    • A friend of mine made the comparison of a society to rungs on a ladder.
      The higher on the ladder, the further a society has to fall. And the US is oh, so very high on the ladder. With how fragile the US grid is, how dependent we are on technology, we have a long way to fall.
      And consider the risk to payoff analysis. A couple of yahoos with something as simple as a deer rifle, and a few rounds that can take down the grid for an entire county.
      What if state actors of foreign countries, had operatives in the US and did a coordinated physical attack on the grid.
      We would be screwed.

  11. During Sandy, I observed lots of people with back up generators unable to use them due to National Grid shutting down the gas lines. After they inspected their equipment near the ocean and made sure that gas had been shut to damaged buildings they turned it back on, but it took time. Those with gasoline or propane generators faired much better. Something to keep in mind, just in case.

  12. Guys. this probably one of three things:
    1. A disgruntled employee that knew what to hit.
    2. A disgruntled customer that got lucky.
    3. A Yahoo and his buddy that had nothing better to do/thought it was a good idea at the time/don’t even remember it this morning. They just wonder why nothing works today.

    • 4. A democrat politician with a gun making a video of how he loves the second amendment and what a good shot he is so that proves it.

      • Ignorant, low crawling, knuckle dragging dumpster supporter who does not have two brain cells to rub together. Typical republican.

        • People don’t generally jump into the discussion here with a lengthy self-description, but you do you, chief. Sorry to hear you are a Republican; that party has enough problems without idjits such as yourself. You’d probably be right at home among the Dimocrats, though . . . most of you Leftist/fascists are.

        • “Ignorant, low crawling, knuckle dragging dumpster supporter who does not have two brain cells to rub together…”

          It sure sounds like you have the extensive personal experience to make an observation like that, gene.

          What’s it like to look in the mirror every morning and all you see is a complete loser like yourself? 🤣

          Seriously, have you considered suicide? The rest of us would really appreciate it… 🙂

  13. All these comments are reactive to the attack that has already happened, the damage done. HOW IS IT that our culture has devolved to the point where such a deed could be done and NO ONE in a position to stop it did anythng, or has so far tapped the perpetrators? THIS is the real brakdown. When I was growing up such things were unthinkable to anyone. The fact that it would cost above a trillion bucks to harden our electrical system and that such hardening is even a consderation speaks loudly to the detarioration in our culture.
    I have to lay much of this on the parts of government that have decided NOT to punish gross lawbr3akers according to the laws on the books. The perps of this crime are unlikely to face much more than misdemeanour vandalism, if they even see any jail time at all.

    • A trillion bucks you say? Like what we spent on Afghanistan? Not to mention $87000000000 in gunz n stuff we left there. Yeah I think we CAN afford to harden it🙄

    • Tionico,

      IF it was either idiot vandals, or domestic “protestors”, I heartily agree with you. But those people exist. More importantly, we have many enemies who engage in ‘asymmetrical warfare’. Domestic terrorists, international terrorists, Russian or Chinese or North Korean specops squads, or drunk local idiots . . . what difference does it make? ALL of the above exist, ANY of the above could do a repeat of this at any time.

      At the rate Senile Joe, the serial child molester, is spending money, a trillion dollars to harden the grid is chump change . . . and FAR more worthwhile than any other boondoggle that tapioca-brained idiot has done.

      I would much rather have our government spend a trillion to harden our grid than spend many times that amount to bail out idiot gender studies grads for their student loans.

  14. Well It goes to prove the grid is made out of glass…back in 2000ish most of hollywood was taken out by one transformer blowing and was out for a week while the BUILT the replacement because replacements are CUSTOM made
    that one blown transformer was made/installed in the 1930’s I kid you not! they did not replace it for over 70 years!
    Either that was planned because the part was ‘that good’ or planned to save money$$$ My bet is on $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  15. Watch when they identify the perps there will be no charges cause of their political ties due to the fact they belong to ANTIFA or BLM groups!!!

  16. Build Back Better my A$$. I pray that never happens here in the desert in summer. I think I’d set fire to my house and drive north. Tell the insurance company it was spontaneous combustion!

    • But that will effect everybody, everywhere. Not just one country. Sort of a do over.

      Who knows. We might all like TiPi living. Those of us still alive, that is.

      • No Carrington will impact the part of the earth pointe towards the sun when the “wave” hits (daylight area).

        Be concerned about EMP.

  17. Certainly clear that the demtard Gov on NC is a world class moron. Say the steps he is talking will insure this never happens again. Yeh right surrrrrrre.

  18. The money is there is to all these things and do them correctly. There just is no real desire to do what needs to be done. We (as a nation) are spending HUGE amounts of money just dealing with Ukraine, political corruption, campaigning, sports, and all manor of uselessness. Just like we DO have the ability to be completely energy independent. That HAS been proven. It does NOT require doubling everyone’s electric bills.

    Now of course bigger homes will use more energy but the average American home really doesn’t take that much to operate. It’s about the fact that a centralized station provides for everyone. That in itself is a vulnerability. It also makes everything more expensive. Personally, I would recommend switching ALL lights to LED, using double pane windows, and maintaining proper insulation. But everyone getting Tesla’s is only going to make things worse unless something is done about the grid itself. Doing things the way we have been is NOT sustainable. Purposely making the grid hackable via the internet is nothing short of completely moronic. But then so is purposely making it so your doorbell doesn’t work unless the internet is.

    The way to prevent situations like this is to decentralize. Doing that DOES mean people need to be responsible for themselves though. But that is what used to be considered ‘the American way’.

  19. As an older American, I am amused with peoples obsession with tech. Do you really need a toaster with bluetooth? Tech for the sake of tech is silly. It has it’s place but everywhere is not it. Make fun of me if you want but I don’t see the point.

  20. Gun owners of the more Radicalkind have been as far as I can see advocating CIVIL WAR for some time. Well this is how it works in practice I’m afraid. Now it’s out there for all to see just how easy it would be to bring down the infrastructure in an amateur ‘Shock and Horror’ weekender. NO mass shooting needed either! . No missiles, no great dollops of explosives [ though knowing America I’d be surprised if they were not readily available] needed just a couple of Large[ish] calibre machine guns. And it’s impossible to guard ALL substations 27/7 I’d say.

    You bloody well asked fot it and you may get it

  21. there is an impressive amount of redundancy present on the current grid. the cascading ’03 blackouts brought us the pjm and the ability to allow sections to draw down and restart rather than let the spiralling hz losses cascade throughout multiple systems (which is what happened). through isolation and redundant connectivity, surviving transfomers can handle extra load: most are largely understressed (perhaps not so in socal).
    i have never seen chinese transmission/ distribution transfomrmers. i’m sure some exist. the grids i’m familiar with (northern illinois and around manhattan immediately post sandy) are all pennsylvania stuff with some canadia and german (siemens). asea built many tanks that will endure for another century out of sweden.
    the stuff placed in the twenties (northwestern law) will last another hundred years because it’s never been asked to lift a finger. there is a pittsburg in wilmette service date ’29 which hasn’t hiccupped and barely knows it has load.
    to fabricate an exact replacement could well take some months, but there are many on the shelf items in stock that can service temporarily, not to mention functioning retired items that can be restored to service. and heavy hauling can deliver them anywhere in the lower 48 within days. the generator will get there first.

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