Prelude to a Summer Blizzard

Giving scientists only half an hour of warning, Mount Spurr, 130 km (80 miles) west of Anchorage, erupted violently on Tuesday afternoon, sending a plume of ash 16 km (10 miles) into the air. It descended on Alaska's largest city a few hours later, blackening the sky and filling the air with a choking fall of what looked like gray snow. Cars and planes were stopped to protect engines from the abrasive grit, and people -- especially those with respiratory ailments -- were advised to stay indoors until the next morning.

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