and, therefore, allow for greater federal help. They're used in situations such as tornadoes, landslides, floods and terrorist attacks. Before hurricane season, all of the federal states of emergency this year dealt with record or near-record snowfalls.

In both cases, the U.S. government picks up at least 75 percent of the cleanup costs.

The federal disaster declaration after Katrina for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi paves the way for long-term rebuilding efforts.

Federal emergencies, by contrast, are designed to address shorter-term problems.

For example, Gov. Mike Easley (D) of North Carolina, declared a state emergency on Sept. 10, a day before Hurricane Ophelia poured 12-15 inches of rain on the coastal areas. The declaration allowed National Guard troops to mobilize rescue teams, transportation workers to clear sand off roads and state troopers to provide additional security.

Later that week, Bush also declared a federal state of emergency in North Carolina, allowing federal resources to be used in the cleanup effort.

Shortly after the storm, federal and state emergency officials conducted a survey of the damage inflicted on North Carolina.

If the damage exceeds $9.2 million, the state would qualify for financial aid from the feds, too, said Patty McQuillan, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. State officials pegged the amount of damage at nearly $34 million, according to The Associated Press.

Agricultural disasters are handled differently. A governor triggers the relief for counties in his state, but the federal government provides the relief directly to the affected farmers.

This year, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich began the process that allowed farmers in 101 of the state's 102 counties to seek low-interest loans from the federal government because of drought conditions.

Following federal law, he asked county offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency to conduct damage assessment surveys of their areas. The report found that 93 counties qualified for the agriculture disaster designation; the remaining eight bordered counties that were primarily affected.

Blagojevich asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to declare an emergency in those 101 counties, which Johanns did.

To qualify for federal help, a farmer in one of the affected counties must lose at least 30 percent of his crop because of the disaster.

The "secretarial declaration" does not offer relief for state or local governments.

Reprinted from Stateline.org.