Costa Rica: The Ash-Covered Capital

On a clear day, people in Costa Rica's capital of San José used to enjoy the view of the dormant, 11,260-ft. volcano Irazú, 16 miles to the northeast. But dormant volcanoes, like "unloaded" guns, can be full of nasty surprises. Last March a violent explosion deep inside Irazú threw up a shower of rocks, some weighing as much as two tons. A dark cloud of gritty ash spread across the sky, and soon drifted down to cover the pretty little Central American city with a layer of what looked like dirty snow.

For ten months now, San José has known...

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