By Nova Safo, CNN
Follow on Twitter: @nova_safo
Moore, Oklahoma (CNN) - Homeowners in Moore, Oklahoma have begun facing the lengthy insurance claims process following the destruction of their homes by last week's deadly tornado that paved a 17-mile path of destruction.
Twenty-four people lost their lives, including children as young as four months old. More than 300 were injured. The estimates for the total cost of insurance claims range from $2 billion to $5 billion.
President Obama toured the area Sunday and pledged sustained support for the rebuilding effort. “It’s going to take a long time for this community to rebuild, so I want to urge every American to step up,” the president said.
For the thousands of homeowners who have already filed insurance claims, it’s becoming clear just how long "a long time" will be. Many, like Alberto Laija, still have multiple challenges ahead.
Laija’s house looks deceptively intact, at least from the outside. Inside, the ceiling is starting to bow in places – evidence of water seepage from a damaged roof. In some parts of the house, the ceiling has already given way.
But Leija’s initial meeting with an insurance adjuster did not go well:
[1:21] “I was showing him a spot where there’s water damage. And probably five feet over this way, there’s another location that has water damage, and he’s saying that has nothing to do with the storm.”
Bigger storms in recent years have been costing insurance companies, and they've responded with higher deductibles and tougher scrutiny of losses. So, Leija will likely not get a resolution for a while.
His neighbor Kevin Gibson is facing even worse damage. His house is standing, but it is missing entire walls and the roof is unstable. City officials have told Gibson his house needs to be bulldozed, but he does not know yet whether his insurance company will decide.
He may have a long wait ahead. The tornado affected an estimated 12,000 homes and it will take months for insurers to assess all the damage.
For properties where the damage is obvious, such as Core Wade’s home which was completely demolished by the tornado, the process could be faster but still includes a lot of paperwork. Late last week, Wade met with insurance officials to catalog every item inside his demolished home.
[3:27] "They create a diagram of my house, by what I tell them. We go room by room, wall by wall, drawer by drawer. They help you figure out what you had in the house. By the time I got done with them, I had 18 pages. There were over 700 items.”
Wade says he expects a good payment from his insurance policy, and is now grappling with what his future will be. Will he rebuild in his old neighborhood or buy a house somewhere else and avoid the months – if not years – of reconstruction ahead?
That’s a question facing all those affected in Moore, and residents say many are choosing to leave. The tornado has permanently altered the future of this quiet suburb just south of Oklahoma City.