Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the damage from Tropical Storm Ian "historic," but stressed that government officials are not able to confirm "hundreds" of fatalities that were mentioned by a county sheriff earlier in the morning.
"We've never seen a flood event like this," DeSantis said Thursday.
"The amount of water that's been rising and will likely continue to rise today – even as the storm is passing – is basically a 500-year event," DeSantis added during a press conference.
Despite losing strength overland, Ian is still a major storm that has sustained winds of 90 mph. The storm weakened by late Wednesday to a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds and continues its crawl across the state, but surges as high as 6 feet were reported early Thursday.
"Lee and Charlotte are basically off the grid at this point [with] power outages. Rebuilding of that infrastructure – that's gonna be more than just connecting power line to pole." DeSantis speculated.
A reporter asked the governor about reported but unconfirmed fatalities in Lee County, where rumors of deaths in the "hundreds" have remained without confirmation.
"None of that is confirmed. I think what that is, is there were 911 calls for people saying, 'Hey, the water is rising in my home. I'm going to go up in the attic. But I'm really worried.' Of course, those folks are now going to be checked on," DeSantis assured the press.
The governor mentioned two fatalities in Lee County that were believed to have been directly caused by the natural disaster, but a formal investigation has not taken place.
He continued, "And so, I think you'll have more clarity about that in the next day or so as they're able to go to those locations and determine whether people need services or are able to be rescued."
"That number that was put out by Lee is basically an estimate of 'Hey, these people were calling.' The water was rising on their home. They may not have ended up getting through. So, we're obviously hoping that they can be rescued at this point," DeSantis concluded.
Fox News' Julia Mustro and The Associated Press contributed to this report.