CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A temporary construction fence is providing an extra barrier for anyone trying to get into Charlotte's stormwater tunnel system.
The fence, put there by a developer, not the city or county, is meant to provide security for a major renovation project nearby, but it effectively also creates a new barrier to what once was the easiest of the tunnels to access.
For safety reasons, we're not disclosing the actual location. Even with the fence, it is not completely secure, but it does offer more protection than the faded "No Trespassing" sign we found earlier this year.
The entrance now mostly blocked by the fence ultimately leads in front of the Charlotte Convention Center. The developer said the construction fence, installed about a month ago, will remain in place until around February.
NBC Charlotte first exposed the security vulnerability beneath the city in 2012 ahead of the Democratic National Convention. Despite significant criticism prompted by that report, we found our way inside this year ahead of the 2020 Republican National Convention.
We've identified several pipes that lead all over the city, including in front of the Spectrum Center. They're meant to allow water to exit during heavy rains, but we learned people with bad intentions could use the tunnels for sinister reasons.
"You look at from explosives, improvised explosive devices being detonated underneath the city could be catastrophic from an infrastructure standpoint," former FBI assistant director Chris Swecker told us earlier this year. "It's surprising it hasn't been completely secured. It's a known vulnerability."
While Swecker he feels confident the tunnels will be secure during the RNC, it's every other day of the year that concerns him.
"I'm confident before the RNC it will be taken care of," he said. "It won't be a vulnerability for the RNC. I think the point being it's a vulnerability for an ongoing basis."
Even though the temporary fence will effectively prevent people from getting in one of the tunnels, a few other access points across the city appear to still be vulnerable. However, those entry points are much more difficult to get to and you also need to know where to look to find them.