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Disaster Teams Assess Mass. Tornado Damage

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Cars are covered in debris near Main Street June 2, 2011 in Springfield, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Cars are covered in debris near Main Street June 2, 2011 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

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SPRINGFIELD (CBS/AP) – Disaster assessment teams scoured western Massachusetts on Monday to determine whether the state is eligible for federal aid in the wake of last week’s tornadoes.

There were nine teams on the ground in the Springfield area, each made up of representatives of several federal and state agencies, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the state Emergency Management Agency. Five assessed damage to infrastructure, including roads and bridges, while four teams looked at private property, including homes and businesses.

Mass.Gov: Tornado Recovery

“Their objective is to get enough information to see if the state reaches the threshold to apply for federal aid,” he said. The threshold is $8.3 million in uninsured losses. A decision is not expected for several days.

Meanwhile, life is slowly returning to normal in the region torn apart by three tornadoes that touched down last Wednesday. One was rated an EF3, with wind speeds of up to 160 mph that flattened buildings, snapped trees like twigs and tossed cars around like toys. Three people were killed and hundreds were injured.

WBZ-TV’s Diana Perez reports.

Springfield public schools reopened on Monday, with the exception of two school buildings that sustained heavy damage and are unsafe. Nearly 600 students from the Brookings and Dryden elementary schools have been re-assigned to other schools for the two weeks remaining in the school year.

Power has been restored to most residents except for a few scattered outages, down from a high of more than 60,000 customers without power.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports

Cleanup crews are tearing down buildings considered too unsafe to remain standing and chain saw crews are busy clearing downed trees.

Some streets in the city’s East Forest Park and South End neighborhoods remain closed to general traffic, said Thomas Walsh, a spokesman for Mayor Domenic Sarno.

“We want to keep out the gawkers, while keeping them clear for emergency vehicles,” he said. “Some of the buildings remain unstable and we don’t want any debris falling on anyone.”

The Red Cross of the Pioneer Valley is still operating three shelters, down from a high of eight in the immediate aftermath.

More than 350 people stayed at shelters on Sunday night, and Red Cross spokeswoman Dawn Leaks says the organization expects that to continue dropping as people find temporary housing or move in with family.

Photos: Tornadoes Tear Through Massachusetts

“We’re prepared to stay open as long as there is a need,” she said.

The Red Cross is also handing out clean-up kits, including trash bags, rubber gloves and cleaning chemicals, and delivering meals.

Donate: The CBS Boston Cares Massachusetts Tornado Relief Fund

Firefighters from across Massachusetts are teaming up with the Teamsters union to help.

People who want to help can drop off emergency supplies to any firehouse in Massachusetts until Thursday. Teamsters will then truck the supplies to Springfield, Monson and the other affected communities.

The firefighters are asking for water, canned food, tarps, flashlights, batteries, bungee cords and ropes.

Firefighters from across the state have been on the ground helping with rescue and cleanup efforts from the start.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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