TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Now that Hurricane Ian has made landfall, Gov. Ron DeSantis has formally requested that President Joe Biden approve a Major Disaster Declaration and a 60 day 100% federal cost share for hurricane recovery. Members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation have also sent letters to the president asking him to approve the declaration.

The governor gave an update on the storm’s path through Florida, saying that Ian was “battering” parts of Southwest Florida. “We have seen life-threatening storm surge as was expected.”

Ian made landfall in Lee County Wednesday afternoon, coming in as a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 150 miles per hour, slightly slower than earlier Wednesday, keeping it from building up to a Category 5 storm.

“Until the storm passes, they’re not going to go into a situation for rescue and put their lives at risk,” DeSantis said. However, local responders are ready once to go to work when the storm passes, according to the governor. “We are getting some reports of structural damage, but I would say overwhelmingly it’s been that surge that’s been an issue, and the flooding that’s resulted.”

DeSantis said the storm surge has “likely peaked” and should reduce as it moves through the state, though hurricane winds were still expected in Central Florida.

He said it’ll be a “strong storm all the way until it exits the Florida peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean” and compared it to Hurricane Michael, saying it “would rank as one of the top five hurricanes to have ever hit the Florida peninsula.” The governor said residents across Florida should be prepared for impacts even if they’re not directly in Ian’s path.

A number of evacuation orders have been issued across the state, including Clay, Flagler, Putnam, and St. Johns counties, among others. DeSantis said there have been 1.1 million power outages reported.

“Just understand, that number is going to grow,” DeSantis said. “You’re going to see more power outages as this storm moves through the center part of our state and before it exits into the Atlantic, the Atlantic Coast.”

The governor warned residents to stay out of the way of emergency crews, downed power lines, and line crews working to restore power.

Referring to the recent request for a Major Disaster Declaration sent to the president, DeSantis said that while the federal government normally waits to perform different damage assessments, the “massive Category 4 storm” that Ian has become will have major impacts and the sooner the declaration is approved, the faster the state can begin recovery efforts.

Focusing on search and rescue efforts, DeSantis said high waters would have major impacts on Florida communities and thanked neighboring states for sending resources to assist in rescue and recovery operations. He said downed power lines and debris in the road, as well as standing water, would make the storm’s passage and aftermath dangerous.

“Obviously with a ferocious storm coming in, hazardous and ominous, we know the life-threatening nature, but once the storm goes, once there is apparent calm, there’s still plenty of hazards,” DeSantis said. “Just please make sure you’re taking the proper precautions.” He asked for donations of time and volunteer hours to assist in recovery, but said sending items was less helpful.

FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie said there were more than 200 shelters open and 42,000 power restoration personnel ready to respond. He asked those with shelter, power, and WiFi to fill out a survey to give state responders better information of impacts across Florida.

The FDEM director described a three-pronged response approach that the state would use to assist residents after Hurricane Ian had passed through.

“We have personnel staged to come in via ground vehicles, we have personnel staged to come in deployed via air with aerial deployed search and rescue assets, and ten we also have the Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to come in via sea,” Guthrie said, saying all three of those response “arms” were ready to assist.

During a question and answer session, DeSantis said he did speak with President Biden on Tuesday, who told him “all hands on deck, he wants to be helpful,” and invited the state to request support from the federal government. DeSantis said he hoped they would get a “favorable response” to the request for a Major Disaster Declaration with the aforementioned 100% cover for the next 60 days.

Discussing insurance claims from hurricane damage, DeSantis said he had spoken with Citizens, who was expecting their $6 to $7 billion surplus to go down to $4 or $5 billion after paying out claims following the storm.

“Please remember that Ian will produce hurricane winds and massive floodings, not just where it makes landfall but throughout the state of Florida,” DeSantis said earlier on Wednesday. “Central and Northeast Florida will also feel impacts.”

Speaking about residents who chose not to evacuate, DeSantis said a small number of people chose to hunker down, with those residents “knowing what the stakes were” and saying safety and rescue operations will be underway as soon as it is safe to do so.

“If you are still in Southwest Florida, please stay inside until the storm passes,” DeSantis said. “It may appear to be calm at some point but you may just be in the eye of the storm and the backside of that will get very nasty.”

Hurricane Ian is expected to exit the state through Daytona Beach, according to DeSantis. He said residents should take tornado warnings seriously and take appropriate precautions.

“The Florida Department of Transportation has just announced that Fort Drum, Canoe Creek, and Turkey Lake service plazas on the Florida Turnpike are now closed,” DeSantis said. There are also a reported 200,000 power outages throughout the state, but crews were working to restore power outside of Southwest Florida.

He said that number was “a drop in the bucket” compared to the outages that are expected, but that responders are ready.

“Once the storm has passed and it’s safe to go outside, you still need to be cautious,” DeSantis said. “Avoid downed power lines, standing water, stay clear of downed trees and don’t drive in standing waters.”

He said if you are using a generator, keep it outdoors to avoid the exhaust. DeSantis said there’s no need to rush back home after the storm passes, and that emergency responders will be out in force to restore functions post-Ian.

“We have a massive, massive mobilization. Their job is to restore services,” DeSantis said. Responders were ready to restore power and provide food and other necessities to those in need. He said there was going to be debris but they weren’t sure how much yet. The Florida Dept. of Transportation is focusing for now on clearing roads once the storm is finished to allow transit across the state for support needs.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management has requested additional support to the Dept. of Defense and the state will be requesting reimbursement via a disaster declaration for recovery efforts after Hurricane Ian finishes. They’ll ask for funding coverage of 100% of claims for the next 60 days for all counties.

“Have we had storms that have been as strong as this hit Florida? Michael, Hurricane Andrew, Labor Day Hurricane many, many decades ago,” DeSantis said. “Yes. Have we had big storms that left a lot of water and flooding? We had Irma recently. this is really bringing both to the table,” DeSantis said. “You’re going to have massive amounts of power hitting that coastline, with really really strong winds. That is going to do a lot of wind damage, but you also have the storm that is so massive, and a lot of people are comparing it to Charlie that hit in 2004, because Charlie, like this, was expected to hit Tampa Bay. And it turned and ended up hitting Southwest Florida. Charlie was strong, but it was a fraction of the size of what we’re dealing with here with Hurricane Ian.”

DeSantis said the effects of the storm would be broad and said the state appreciated the help of the Biden administration during the state’s time of need.

FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie urged residents to seek shelter or contact 911 for emergency services, if needed, and reiterated the advice of DeSantis as far as staying inside even if it appears calm outside.

“If everything stops, the storm is not over. If you can hear us and see us on your TV, you are most likely about to have bright, sunshiney area here very soon,” Guthrie said. “You are in the eye of the storm. Stay inside. Stay indoors. Do not go outside. We do not know when that eye wall will collapse. Please stay safe.”

He told residents to use extreme caution and do not cut any power or fiber optic lines they see outside if they go out. Guthrie said there were plenty of resources to respond to residents’ needs and that state responders were ready to assist.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Division of Law Enforcement Director Colonel Roger Young said the commission had resources ready to deploy to help and that FWC officers were ready.

Agency for Health Care Administrator Simone Marstiller said that as the eye of Hurricane Ian made landfall, all state healthcare facilities had made preparations for Ian’s impact. Since the beginning of the storm, AHCA has stayed focused on helping patients, according to Marstiller.

The agency is asking facilities to continue reporting hospital bed census and generator statuses to make sure AHCA can provide necessary resources once recovery efforts begin. Marstiller said thousands of patients had been evacuated to ensure care could continue where needed, even in areas outside of the storm’s path.

DeSantis came back to the podium to discuss crew response for power outages and restoration. He said not all power outages were going to be “created equal” and said the high wind speeds had the potential to uproot infrastructure that connects the state and deliver power.

“That will just require a reconstruction of that, and that’s something that can be done. But it’s not as easy as just simply hooking up a downed power line back into place,” DeSantis said. “As you get more severe wind impacts, more powerful storm, storm surge, that’s where you’re in jeopardy of seeing a lot of that infrastructure disrupted, that will require more than just simply rehooking it.”

The governor warned that some houses and businesses may not be able to have power returned right away depending on the level of damage to local infrastructure and said residents should be prepared for significant power outages.

“As soon as it’s safe to go in, there’s going to be people, I’ve already talked to a lot of the locals, they know where they need to look to see the damage assessments, to see where folks are in harm’s way,” DeSantis said. State responders will be ready to help people “back on their feet as soon as possible.”

Officials took questions. Marstiller said 15 hospitals had been evacuated, with about 350 patients moved as a result. DeSantis said as the state had kept an eye on the track, when the storm was expected in Tampa Bay, he’d spoken with leaders at Tampa General, who detailed their “fortifications” to handle storm surge effects.

“They’re going to feel effects from this, but my hope is those patients will be able to be brought back as soon as the storm is over,” DeSantis said, and that he wasn’t anticipating major structural damage, which would be “his hope” in some of those areas.

During the Q&A, DeSantis said there would be a concerted effort between local, state and federal officials and law enforcement to perform recovery efforts once the storm passes.

Hurricane Ian is currently expected to make landfall around 2 p.m., according to an 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. DeSantis said there’d be another update in a few hours, but that he appreciated people’s concern for Florida and that the storm was “really, really significant” and one that would be remembered in the future. He compared Hurricane Ian to Andrew and Michael in terms of effect and community remembrance.