With more than 2 million Floridians waking up with no electricity and some residents in Lee and Charlotte counties without cell service, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said state leaders are focused on helping neighbors find safety and recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, but expressed worries around getting disaster recovery funds.
"Without a doubt, there are a lot of people that are going to be counting on insurance, and hopefully they will be fully insured," Mayor Castor said in an interview on "Mornings with Maria" Thursday. "But right now, we're focused on the safety of our community, of our residents, of the residents of the entire state, making sure everyone is safe right now."
Hurricane Ian made landfall along the Florida peninsula Wednesday afternoon before making its way through the center of the state as a tropical storm overnight. Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a Thursday morning press conference that 2.5 million Floridians are without power with some residents "off the grid," and the Lee County Sheriff told "Good Morning America" that deaths from the storm in the area were in the hundreds.
"We have fatalities in the hundreds," Sheriff Carmine Marceno said, although noting he couldn't confirm specific numbers.
"It really just devastated our neighbors to the south," Castor told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo. "We consider ourselves incredibly lucky here in the Tampa Bay area. So we are cleaning up some of the damage we have. We're also looking to send resources to our neighbors down south to help them recover."
While the immediate need for power, clean water and other essentials take precedence in Southwest Florida, Castor emphasized that the price increase in property insurance rates could make it difficult to restore or replace damaged homes, cars or businesses.
"We've seen a lot of the insurance companies go out of business. Happened at my home as well – I had to change to a different carrier," Castor explained. "So those are issues really down the road that we're going to have to look at, having people get the funds to fix their homes and their businesses back up."
As emergency response resources and personnel make their way south to execute rescue efforts and fix power lines, Castor said an earlier phone call she had with President Biden and FEMA’s director provided "reassurance" that federal resources are ready to act and assist in disaster relief and recovery.
Castor further detailed how the president’s message gave her confidence that the federal branch is "all working collaboratively to provide the services to fill the needs that we will have in the path of Hurricane Ian. So just very reassuring of not only the local collaboration, but the state and federal level."