Bush Signs Disaster Declarations

President Bush signed disaster declarations (search) Thursday to send federal assistance to hurricane-battered states and changed his weekend schedule to visit Florida and Alabama.

Bush, campaigning in Minnesota, said he talked earlier in the day with Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown. Bush signed disaster declarations for Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.

In a change of weekend plans, Bush will skip a NASCAR (search) race and a separate campaign appearance in New Hampshire on Sunday and fly to Alabama and Florida to inspect hurricane damage, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. Bush plans to return to New Hampshire to make up the campaign event in Derry.

Bush spoke to his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (search), and to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley by phone from his bus while he was campaigning in Minnesota. The president made three trips to politically important Florida to comfort residents after earlier storms.

At least 12 deaths were blamed on Hurricane Ivan after it slammed ashore on the Gulf Coast in Alabama and threatened communities from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.