WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Mark Warner declared a state of emergency Tuesday in the aftermath of a swift-moving tropical storm Monday that dumped a foot of rain on portions of the state and killed at least five people.

City officials in Richmond shut down a 20-block area and condemned many buildings in a revitalized historic district, which appeared to bear the brunt of the winds from tropical storm Gaston.

The historic area, known as Shockoe Bottom and home primarily to bars and restaurants, turned into a raging river Monday as the flood waters overturned cars and swelled as high as 10 feet, according to some accounts. Shockoe Bottom is a low-lying area near the James River that has flooded in the past, but many locals claimed they had never seen anything like Monday’s surprise storm.

City officials said damage could be in the millions of dollars.

Richmond’s two largest shopping centers, located outside the hard-hit downtown area, were largely spared, according to executives.

Taubman Inc.’s newest mall, Stony Point Fashion Park, with Galyan’s and Dillard’s as anchors, was not affected much by the powerful storm, according to Sid Welch, the mall’s general manager. Welch said the center had less foot traffic during the storm, but did not suffer power outages or water damage and stores maintained normal operating hours for the most part.

Welch said retailers were expecting a possible boost in business because several schools announced closures.

At Short Pump Town Center, with Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Hecht’s and Dillard’s as anchors, some smaller stores closed early Monday but operated normal business hours Tuesday, according to Paige Peak, director of marketing for the Short Pump.

“We’re very lucky because we are situated west of Richmond and we did not have the full impact downtown Richmond received,” said Peak.

Peak said the top priority on Monday night was seeing that employees got home safely.

“So it did impact some of the smaller stores which had to close early so their employees could get home,” she said.

This story first appeared in the September 1, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.