Hope for the Gulf? City Revives After Flood

It's dawn, and Jolie Ewens' kitchen is more crowded and chaotic than usual: Ever since Hurricane Katrina, Ewens and her family here have been housing her sister Debbie's family from New Orleans.

"It was the right place to come, and not only because everything's so normal here -- everyone's been through it here," Debbie Owens says. "I mean, you could just see it in people's eyes around here that they know what you're going through."

They know because eight years ago the situation was reversed. Ewens' family had to take refuge with Owens when Grand Forks and neighboring East Grand Forks were wiped out by floods.

On that bitter cold April morning, the Red River, usually about 17 feet deep, crested at 54 feet. It spilled over its levees, swallowing neighborhoods and forcing more than 50,000 people to flee. On top of all that, fires gutted many historic buildings.

Aid, Local Business Boost Recovery

Despite the devastation, residents like Kim Holmes, a restaurant owner, were determined to return and rebuild.

"I was a little bit upset, kind of pissed off about getting wiped out like that, and I wasn't going to let it beat me," Holmes says.

In a sign of hope for New Orleans, less than a decade later in Grand Forks there are new homes, schools, businesses, arenas, even a new golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.

Mayor Michael Brown, an obstetrician, measures the recovery not by buildings, but by birth rate.

"Before the flood we had about 120 deliveries a month," he says. "After the flood it dropped to around 90. But now we are doing 130, 140 deliveries a month. I mean, this city has really rebounded."

Nearly $400 million in federal assistance helped. Much of that has gone to state-of-the-art flood protection, giving residents the confidence to come back.

George Widman reopened his candy shop across from the new flood wall.

"It took me 30 years to pay for this building," he says, "and I wasn't going to leave this sucker."

Widman and others will acknowledge it has been a hard road back, but they are now finally in a position to help others. Ewens' church has raised $1,000 for her flooded relatives.

ABC News' Geoff Morrell reported this story on Sept. 25, 2005 for "World News Tonight."