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Duke Energy expects power restored in N.C. by midnight Wednesday

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Power is coming back on across Moore County, N.C., and officials expect the mass outage to be resolved by the end of the night on Wednesday.

Duke Energy said as many as 6,000 customers were still waiting for their power to be restored after an act of vandalism took about 35,000 customers offline on Saturday night. About two dozen shell casings from a high-powered rifle were recovered from the scene of two substations in the county, which were heavily damaged.

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The governor has characterized it as an act of domestic terrorism.

Officials with the energy company project that all of the affected customers will have power by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

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"Repairing and replacing this equipment is a methodical process that takes several days," Jason Hollifield, Duke Energy's general manager, said in a news release.

"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."

Power will be restored in phases. Crews have been working 24-hour shifts to expedite the process.

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The energy company has about 45,000 customers in Moore County.

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Duke Energy has been working with local, state and federal investigators on the attack.

WRAL, a news station in Raleigh, reported a person in Pinehurst died about 11:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, hours after the power went out. There is an investigation into whether the death was in any way caused by the outage. If so, the perpetrators could face harsher punishments, including life in prison as they face potential state and federal charges.

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Much of the damaged equipment has been repaired or replaced. If the damage exceeds $100,000, the culprits could face 20 years in prison under state law.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a nationwide bulletin last week that critical infrastructure could be among targets of terrorist attacks.

"Our homeland continues to face a heightened threat environment -- as we have seen, tragically, in recent acts of targeted violence -- and is driven by violent extremists seeking to further a political or social goal or act on a grievance," said DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas.

On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper said the attack on critical infrastructure amounts to an act of domestic terrorism.

"This type of violence and sabotage will not be tolerated in North Carolina," Cooper said Tuesday on Twitter. "Law enforcement is working diligently to find who committed this atrocious act. In the meantime, we're making sure that people are safe and warm and we've committed significant resources from the state to ensure people have what they need."

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The FBI has been among the agencies involved in investigating the power outage.

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