MOORE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- It was another day of waking up in total darkness for people in Moore County, but power is slowly starting to come back online in places like Carthage where special equipment has been brought in to get the lights back on.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Duke Energy said they've restored electricity for nearly 10,000 customers. The company said in a news release nearly all customers could have electricity just before midnight on Wednesday. Crews are working 24-hour shifts to make repairs and restore service to all impacted customers, Duke Energy said.
"Repairing and replacing this equipment is a methodical process that takes several days," said Jason Hollifield, Duke Energy's general manager, Emergency Preparedness. "Once repairs are made, we must test the equipment before beginning the final restoration process. We sincerely appreciate the patience and understanding our customers have shown."
According to Duke Energy, almost 35,000 customers in Moore County remain without power. This is down from 45,000, who were initially affected when two substations in the county were attacked and vandalized. The company is working with local, state and federal agencies on the investigation.
Sam Stephenson, a power delivery specialist for Duke Energy, said the company has been able to implement "rolling power-ups" in the northern part of the county, giving some customers power in 2- to 3-hour waves.
Schools remain closed
Moore County Schools said Tuesday afternoon that no classes will be held Wednesday or Thursday.
A determination for Friday will be announced by 4 p.m. Thursday.
A determination for staffers for Thursday will be announced by 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the outage during a Council of the State meeting in Raleigh on Tuesday. He said there are three priorities going forward. The first is the health and safety of those living in Moore County. Getting back on quickly as possible and finding out who is responsible.
The State Bureau of Investigation is just one of the many agencies working around the clock to figure out who is responsible.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields says whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing. He joined Governor Cooper to lay out as much as he could regarding the investigation. The governor said protecting the state's infrastructure is a top priority.
Duke Energy is also doing its part but said it does not want to reveal any security measures. But an ex-FBI agent said it does appear that there are high-quality cameras at the substations that could help investigators crack the case.
"I'm always concerned about critical infrastructure and we certainly need to learn from this incident as to what we may need to do because these kinds of things cannot happen," Cooper said.
He added that this attack is being looked at as an act of domestic terrorism.
Cooper called for a thorough assessment of the state's critical infrastructure Tuesday morning at the monthly Council of State meeting - a collective body of elected officials comprising the executive branch. He said this will likely include discussions with federal regulators, lawmakers and utility companies about how to bolster security and prevent future attacks.
In the short term, the state has sent generators to Moore County and is helping feed residents. Law enforcement in surrounding counties has been more vigilant about monitoring nearby substations since the attack, he said.
"This seemed to be too easy," Cooper told reporters after the meeting. "People knew what they were doing to disable the substation, and for that much damage to be caused - causing so much problem, economic loss, safety challenges to so many people for so long - I think we have to look at what we might need to do to harden that infrastructure."
Mike Causey, the North Carolina insurance commissioner and state fire marshal, called the attack "a wakeup call to provide better security at our power substations."
County officials said 54 people spent Monday night at an emergency shelter at the county sports complex in Carthage, up from 19 people the night before, as temperatures dropped below freezing after sundown. Many more residents have stopped by the shelter for food, warmth, showers or to charge their devices.
Republican state Sen. Tom McInnis, who represents Moore County, said the General Assembly is awaiting updates on how the perpetrators of this attack might be charged and may consider new legislation related to the punishment when the legislature returns in January.
"I'm reasonably confident there will be new legislation that will be brought forward in the long session to address the potential that, again, that the crime and the penalty need to be leveled and evened out," McInnis said at a news conference Tuesday.
Brian Harrell, former assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said a determined adversary with insider knowledge of how to cripple key components of critical infrastructure is difficult to stop and requires an industry-wide collective defense.
DHS and energy companies have been monitoring what Harrell, who now leads security for an energy company servicing multiple states, identified as a significant uptick in nefarious online discussions about sabotaging distribution and transmission substations.
Investigators have said whoever shot up the substations knew what they were doing. But they have not released further information about how much inside knowledge they may have had.
"What impacts you can impact me, so threat information-sharing is absolutely essential," Harrell told The Associated Press. "Over 85% of all critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector, so we need to have more regular conversations amongst security partners to identify, disrupt and mitigate" threats to infrastructure.
The Associated Press contributed.