Officials: ‘Catastrophic’ electrical failure led to arcade explosion

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk Fire-Rescue Fire Marshal’s Office has determined that an electrical failure triggered by a contractor working on power lines near the Selden Arcade led to the April 2015 explosion.

The final report on the Selden Arcade was released on Wednesday, and details what led up to the explosion.

REPORT: Selden Arcade Explosion

Officials have concluded that the chain reaction leading to the explosion was caused by a contractor striking a power line near the northeast side of the building.

The explosion originated outside the northeast side of the building, at the electrical power supply feed, officials concluded. This is the main power feed for the electrical switch room at the arcade.

The contractor’s actions caused a chain of events resulting in what officials have called a “catastrophic failure of the electrical system” that led to “severe arcing and an explosion.”

Photos: Wall collapses at Selden Arcade

According to officials, the gases produced from “the overheating and failing electrical cables in the conduit traveled into the electrical switch room building up to the explosive levels.”

A witness of the explosion told officials they thought it looked like a scene from “Titanic,” “with a wall of shattered glass flying across the arcade.”

In the aftermath of the explosion, the City of Norfolk said it had planned to rebuild the old arcade. However, in December of 2015, it was reported that the damage to the building was worse than it was initially believed to be.

The wall of the building has been braced while the city determines what repairs to the building might cost.


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