N. Carolina power grid attack spotlights similar West Coast reports

by Jacob Fuller

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


The lights are back on in North Carolina, but worries of future terrorist attacks, domestic or otherwise, on American infrastructure have heightened in the wake of a shooting at a power substation that left tens of thousands without electricity for several days.

Sunday, officials in North Carolina revealed that two substations in Moore County had been severely damaged by gunfire Saturday night. Wednesday, after several frantic days of intense effort, power crews finished repairing and replacing damaged equipment and restored electricity to more than 38,000 customers.

However, as the quest for the person or people responsible for the damage continues, experts and government agents alike are warning that worse could befall the nation if serious efforts to protect key infrastructure are not undertaken.

“We’ve known the power system is very vulnerable to physical attack, and we’ve known this for decades,” Dr. Granger Morgan, professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, told CBS News. “We’ve made a bit of progress, but the system is still quite vulnerable.”

As reported in more detail by CBS, while the Moore County incident has captured national attention, it is far from a novel occurrence. According to one security expert cited by CBS, more than 700 attacks on power substations have been recorded in the United States since 2013, although not all resulted in widespread power outages.

Just last month, officials reported attacks on at least five power substations in Oregon and Washington state, according to ABC News. Just one of those, at a station near Portland, caused a temporary power outage. Power companies have not released further details of the attacks to the public.

“Protecting critical infrastructure like our power system must be a top priority,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said during a press conference Monday. “This kind of attack raises a new level of threat. We will be evaluating ways to work with our utility providers and state and federal officials to make sure we harden our infrastructure where that’s necessary, and work to prevent future damage.”

Moore has since partnered with Moore County and Duke Energy to offer a $75,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Investigators seem to be making progress, although an arrest does not seem imminent. Late Wednesday, CNN reported the FBI and North Carolina State Bureau are drawing closer to establishing a motive for the crime and had found some two dozen shell casings used during the attacks.

Per the CNN report, investigators have found evidence of people in online spaces encouraging attacks on critical infrastructure. Additionally, although neither CNN nor investigators said a strong link had been established, investigators have noted that the time of the shootings coincided with the start of a drag show in Moore County and that they are attempting to determine if the timing was coincidental or by design.

Whether these hypotheses eventually prove accurate will likely hinge on how much information investigators can glean from the spent shell casings.