PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis gave Hurricane Ian recovery updates from the Charlotte County Emergency Operations Center on Thursday. He said interstates are flowing on I-75, having seen it on the way to Charlotte County to inspect storm damage from the hurricane.

“We’ve seen a number of efforts on the barrier islands to bring people to safety, in Lee County but also in Charlotte, in Naples in Collier County. Electric and power, they’re all here,” DeSantis said. “The minute they could get in here, they’ve been working to get people connected again.”

DeSantis said he’d spoken with telecomm companies about service restoration and that the Florida Department of Emergency Management had set up mobile cellphone towers to help with communication. More help and supplies were on the way, according to the governor.

“Life safety is critical,” DeSantis said. “Anyone stranded on one of those barrier islands, want to make sure that they’re safe. I know here in Charlotte, any of the neighborhoods that experienced a lot of wind and water damage, these folks are there to make sure people are safe.”

DeSantis said they needed to stabilize areas with critical resources as they recovered from Hurricane Ian.

“This is going to be a 24/7 operation because we realize how important it is. We also understand that there’s a lot of people that have asked what they can do to help the people of Florida,” DeSantis said. “We have a fund, FloridaDisaster.org, you can make a contribution.”

The governor said monetary donations were more helpful for relief than donating supplies as material needs were already in place, but funds would help handle more unique needs. He said more than $2 million had already been donated and that he was impressed with Charlotte County’s resiliency.

First Lady Casey DeSantis spoke after the governor, discussing relief efforts.

“We are just so proud of the people of southwest Florida, the resiliency, and the courage and the strength that you are exhibiting, the people here at the emergency operations center and frankly the people across the state of Florida,” Casey DeSantis said. “We could just not be more proud.”

The First Lady encouraged donations to the recovery fund to help with microtargeted recovery efforts and promised to cut through red tape and bureaucracy to get people the help they need.

Kevin Guthrie, Director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management spoke next, thanking everyone for the resources and support provided for recovery efforts. He said personnel were already mobilizing for relief efforts.

“I’m very very proud of the men and women in our logistics section, specifically the Florida Division of Emergency Management, they’ve been very flexible and they have been very responsive,” Guthrie said. “Far exceeding our expectations for a disaster like this.”

DeSantis returned to the podium, noting how the state had pre-positioned response personnel before the storm’s arrival to better set up to restore power. He introduced Florida Power & Light president Eric Silagy to give a power update, saying the company had the biggest footprint for utilities in the state.

“We have 1.2 million customers out of power, but we have been able to restore over 700,000 customers before the storm has been left the state,” Silagy said. “We are going to continue to work 24/7 to do so. I’m actually pleased, the parts of the system I’ve seen, a little bit further to the wets of here is in good shape. At FPL we did not lose a single transmission tower.”

Silagy said distribution systems and substations hit by debris will be worked on soon to get them back online. However, systems in Bear Islands must be rebuilt instead of repaired, according to Silagy. Businesses in that area may also need construction to be able to take the power once its ready. he thanked the work crews responding to the storm.

“As the governor said, not our first rodeo, but every storm is also different, and always poses different challenges,” Silagy said. “But appreciate all of the support from the state, governor thank you, from local law enforcement as well, the national guard, this is a team sport, we’re all going to work together to get Florida back on her feet.”

DeSantis spoke again, saying that when power company crews came in, the extent of infrastructure that has remained is critical to reconnection efforts.

On Thursday morning, President Joe Biden approved Florida’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration and continued to promise full federal assistance for storm recovery.

DeSantis said search and rescue operations were in progress and had started at 1 a.m. In the afternoon, Chief Financial Office Jimmy Patronis said more teams had deployed through Florida. The teams include crews from other states who volunteered to come to Florida to assist in rescue efforts. Dozens of rescues had been performed overnight.

During a question and answer session, DeSantis said damage in Sanibel was just “destruction.” He said the community there was hit with “really biblical storm surge.”

“It washed away roads, it washed away structures that were not new and could withstand that. There have been a number of people who have been identified and brought off the island safely,” DeSantis said. “Those efforts are ongoing. The coast guard has been involved with that. Our USAR teams, as well as local law enforcement. I think most people have seen the images of the bridge, the causeway going out to Sanibel. Where you have destruction of that. That’s something that, obviously we’ll rebuild, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

The governor said he’d spoken with the town mayor and that most residents had evacuated from the “seasonal community.” He said the restoration efforts required would be extensive due to the amount of damage. DeSantis said they were committed to restoring the infrastructure but it was not an overnight task.