1. Snowman on track in northern Germany forces train into emergency stop
As bad weather continues to bear down on Europe, a snowman caused panic on a train line in Wesenberg, northern Germany. Several deaths have been reported across the continent due to sub-zero temperatures.
German police reported late on Wednesday that a train traveling between Wesenberg and Mirow in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was forced to carry out an emergency stop as the driver bore down on a snowman built on the tracks.
Unable to distinguish whether it was a person or a snowman, the driver quickly stepped on the brake, resulting in some 5,000 euros ($5,300) worth of damage on the vehicle's braking system. No one was injured in the incident.
The snowman was reportedly built by three unknown suspects at around 5:45 p.m. local time (1645 UTC) on Wednesday.
Snow and ice have continued to plague wide parts of Germany this week. In the port city of Hamburg, emergency services were dealing with a huge flood as St. Pauli's fish market stood under some 2.11 meters (6.9 feet) of water.
In the southern stae of Bavaria, icy roads proved to be fatal when a truck driver was trapped by the cabin of his HGV after it jackknifed.
Road traffic accidents were also reported during the night in the states of Brandenburg, Saxony - most of which only involved damage to vehicles. In eastern Saxony, the police blocked a few smaller streets due to snow drifts.
After a short relief in some corners of Germany, snow and ice is expected to keep the country on its toes in coming days, with temperatures due to return to below freezing.
More than 70 deaths across Europe
Eastern Europe has seen even more treacherous weather with reports of travel delays, power outages and sub-zero temperatures - leaving the homeless and migrants most at risk. The recent cold snap has now been blamed for at least 73 deaths across the entire continent.
In Bulgaria, much of the north and east of the country was paralyzed when snowdrifts blocked roads and left 117 towns and villages without electricity. The main highway linking the capital Sofia with the Black Sea port of Burgas was also closed.
Bulgaria's energy ministry said it had turned down emergency requests for power from neighbors Greece and Turkey to avoid the possibility of having to ration electricity for domestic customers.
In Kosovo, where temperatures have plummeted to minus 25 Celsius (minus 13 Fahrenheit) police said a homeless man was found dead, apparently from hypothermia.
Meanwhile in Greece, a naval ship was sent to the island of Lesbos to house some 500 refugees and migrants. A medical association on the island said conditions at the main camp there were "inhuman," with migrants in tents exposed to freezing temperatures.
Human rights group Amnesty International urged Athens and European Union and the Greek government to move migrants from the Greek islands to the mainland and launched an online petition.
2. World's Smallest Snowman: Scientist Claims New Record
Todd Simpson from Western University created the original ‘snowman’ by accident back in 2005. In an effort to create isolated silica spheres he deposited a solution of them on a polymer film pockmarked with nanoscale holes. When the film was removed the isolated spheres were left behind. But in some case the holes were a little deeper and more than one silica sphere dropped in to create a dimer. And in rare instances a dimer could end up stacked on top of another silica sphere to create the three-ball snowman – although it had no arms or face at this stage.
This year, Simpson found the old sample and used the lab’s focused ion beam instrument to carve out the snowman’s eyes and mouth. The ion beam can also be used to deposit platinum and so he ‘grew’ arms and a nose for the sculpture. Each silicon sphere is 0.9μm in diameter making the snowman just shy of 3μm.
The nano-snowman is reminiscent of one created back in 2009 by David Cox, a National Physical Laboratory research fellow at the University of Surrey, UK. His snowman was made in a similar manner but was substantially larger than this new one – almost 10 times the size at a little under 30μm.
3. The Force Is Strong With This Family's BB-8 Snowman
“From November until now she’s been begging me to do it but we never had enough snow,” Francis told ABC News of his 7-year-old daughter’s persistence. “I was leaving Sunday for work and had 3 or 4 hours before I had to travel, so I just got her up and said, ‘Get your stuff on.’”
His daughter is a big "Star Wars" fan, which is something this proud papa can certainly get behind.
"For Halloween she wanted to be Rey," he said, referring to the lead character in "The Force Awakens." "I love it because 'Star Wars' is full of strong female characters for her."
Francis and Gwen spent two hours rolling a “big ol' ball” into the BB-8 shape, then used a butter knife to mold the top layer into the perfectly edged semi-circle.
As for the rest of the family getting in on the fun, “My wife watched form the window,” Francis said with a laugh.
The entire project only cost Francis $8 for the orange spray paint.
After all their hard work, though, Francis said his daughter was “over it” within 10 minutes.
“It was funny -- all that build-up and then 10 minutes later she’s done with it,” he said.
It’s safe to say their droid sculpture is the winter vision of every “Star Wars” fan’s dreams though, and was trending on the front page of Reddit over the weekend.
4. Hospice Staff Makes Elderly Woman's Dreams Come True by Building a Snowman
Ionia Moore, 87, got to build her very own snowman, something she’d been wishing for since Thanksgiving.
“She hasn’t been able to go out or be out in snow or anything,” Moore’s daughter, Cathy Stephens, a nurse at the hospice center, told ABC News. “She’s had several strokes and the last stroke took the ability for her to walk or feed herself or do any of those things.”
Moore also has dementia and has a hard time remembering things. But one thing she never forgot was her desire to get out to play in the snow and build her very own snowman.
“She was watching a Hallmark movie before Christmas and I was taking her some medicine and she looked at me and said, ‘I want to build a snowman,’” Becky Beach, one of Moore’s medication nurses, recalled. “So when they called for snow, I called Cathy and she told us where her warm clothes were to take her out there to build her a snowman.
“She just grinned and giggled the whole time,” she added.
Beach and fellow nurse Melissa Bridges even made sure to place the snowman out Moore’s window when they were finished so she could continue to look at it from her room.
“She has a patio right outside her room so we positioned the table so that whenever she’s lying there she can see it,” said Beach.
Stephens has fond childhood memories of her mom always loving snow. “She was always a homemaker,” she said of her mom, who grew up in neighboring Shelby. “When it snowed when we were younger, she would make ice cream out of the snow for us. She would do stuff like that. That was just special for her.”
Although Stephens wasn’t working the day Beach and Bridges helped make her mom’s day with a simple snowman, she very much appreciates their kind gesture.
“They kept that promise to her and I appreciate what they did for her,” she said, adding, however, that it isn’t just these two nurses who make a difference at the hospice center.
“All of them are special,” said Stephens. “They all do special things for all the patients. It’s the whole hospice, it’s just what we do for our patients. It’s a team effort.”
“This snowman was just a great example of the kinds of things volunteers can come in and help out to do,” said Pam Sharts, the director of marketing and public relations for Hospice of Cleveland County.
She explained that hospice is in great need for more volunteers who can help make these simple requests from their patients come true.
“It was great our staff had time to do that but there’s so many needs like that and we try to make as many as we can happen, but it would be a lot easier if we had volunteers,” said Sharts.
“Some of them cut hair. They paint nails sometimes,” Stephens added of some of the volunteers’ helpful tasks that make a world of difference for their patients.
5. Boise man selling snowmen for up to $50
It’s probably hard to sell snow but Keith Anderson makes it look easy when he builds it the way you’d expect — hat, scarf, coal eyes and buttons and a carrot nose.
He was making one on his lawn with his 3-year-old child when inspiration struck.
“We rolled a few extras and thought, ‘Wow, we can roll snowmen for the neighbors, or we can give them to friends or family… and then just kind of came up with the idea that maybe someone would buy a snowman,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he loves winter sports and he loved building snowmen as a kid, and whether you buy or build your snowman, you should do it for the memories that will never melt away.
“Just go out there and do it. Even if you don’t like it, your kids will remember it and be thankful for that opportunity of having done it,” he said.
6. West Toledo snowman built to mirror special foster family
The rotund figure on Torquay Avenue is perched on a wheelchair.
Joe Smith, 16, built the snowman this week for his siblings and foster siblings using a spare chair from the family’s garage.
“I just decided to have a wheelchair, and every time they look out the window they can see [themselves],” the teen said.
His parents, Sue and Jerry Smith, have fostered children for about 40 years. The couple has concentrated on those with disabilities and intense medical needs for at least 33 years.
“Most of them generally are in wheelchairs,” said Mrs. Smith, who is a retired neonatal intensive care nurse.
“Joe’s grown up with that. He’s just in tune to the special-needs kids we care for.”
The Smiths have 13 children, 11 of them — including Joe — adopted through the foster system. They are raising four foster children right now.
Donna Seed, manager of the placement department for Lucas County Children Services, said the Smiths have cared for a very diverse group of children over the years.
“They have exposed their own children, grandchildren, and many other people in their extended family to kids from all different walks of life,” Ms. Seed said. “They treat all these children the same and play to their strengths, and not necessarily catering to their disability. They see every child as having the strength and the potential to excel in the same ways as able-bodied children who maybe don’t have the same physical limitations.”
Joe said he had one of his current foster siblings, a 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, in mind when building the snowman.
“He’s smart, funny, and he just brings smiles to everybody’s faces,” Joe said. “He’s just a funny, good kid. Everybody loves him.”
Mrs. Smith said the family bundled up the boy and wheeled him outside to see the snowman.
While the boy doesn’t talk much, she said, it was clear he enjoyed Joe’s creation.
“He loved it. He had a big smile on his face and was laughing. He was happy,” Joe said. “He looks out his bedroom window and sees it, and just laughs.”
The Smiths haven’t kept count of the number of children they’ve fostered, but Mrs. Smith said it’s likely more than 100. She was the third of 17 children, and she said Mr. Smith spent a fair portion of his childhood in an orphanage.
“It was our calling, I guess,” she said. “We’ve enjoyed everything we do.”
Joe envisions future snowmen having tracheostomies, walkers, or crutches.
“You don’t see snowmen like this every day,” he said.
7. Barack Obama pranked by White House staff over snowman fears
Earlier this month, Mr Obama admitted he had a slight fear of snowmen, telling People: “There’s a whole kind of Chucky element to them. They’re a little creepy,” prompting his wife Michelle Obama to joke she might move one next to his bed to scare him.
“I would move. If I see one of those snowmen in my bedroom, I’m moving,” he said.
While it is not known whether the First Lady made good on he pledge and pranked her husband, staff members in the White House did.
Earlier this week, The White House’s official photographer Pete Souza shared a photo on Instagram of Mr Obama hard at work in the Oval Office while a sinister looking snowman can be seen lurking in the garden behind.
“For the past three weeks, there have been four snowmen on display in the Rose Garden," he explained in a caption. "We’ve been joking that we should move the snowmen a few feet closer to the Oval office every day to see if anyone noticed… Finally, this morning before the President came to the office, some helpful staff – I won’t say who – moved all the snowmen so each one was peeking through a different window into the Oval.
“This photo was taken this afternoon as the President signed end-of-the-year bills.”
While some may consider pranking the boss a risky move, a second post by Mr Souza showed Mr Obama had come to terms with the joke.
8. INSTANT KARMA INTERVENES WHILE BATSHIT CRAZY WOMAN DESTROYS SNOWMAN
Well, meet this batshit crazy lady who was captured by a surveillance camera doing just that. Watch as her initial kick was quite futile, so she walks around it to find out exactly why it didn’t fall over the first time. After realizing the reason is that she just sucks at kicking snowmen in the front, she decides to play the “dick move” card and kick it over from the backside.
Now even the biggest of assholes would have moved on at this point, but a snowman lying face-first on the pavement wasn’t enough for our early “Bitch of the Year” candidate. Next up? You guessed it: She climbed on top of the poor guy and decided a good curb stomping was in order.
9. Frosty The Snowman Captured In Boy's X-Ray
"I used to like snowmen. That changed, well, because I swallowed one," said 12-year-old Aiden Tilley.
Aiden says he was messing around with the one inch tall and a few millimeters thick snowman in his room, when the accident happened.
"I put it in my mouth and I was going to spit it out but it's a lot heavier than I thought and it got stuck in my throat," said Aiden.
He rushed downstairs to tell his mom and dad. He says he was equally worried about his health and his parent's reaction.
"Immediately I was like, please go tell your dad. I was frustrated," said Aiden's mom, Mandi Tilley.
"I just didn't believe him. Who swallows a snowman you know?" said Aiden's dad, Johnathan Tilley.
After a series of calls to emergency rooms and doctors' offices, the Tilley's ended up at Foothills Pediatric the following morning. Doctors decided an X-Ray was needed.
"Sure enough the X-Ray technician came back and said that's definitely a snowman with a top hat," said Mandi.
Doctors explained that the snowman shines so bright in the X-Ray because it is made of metal.
"Everything you can think about a snowman you can see right there," said Johnathan.
Doctors say Aiden is going to be fine, and the snowman is small enough to pass naturally.
Aiden feels perfectly fine. However, he and his family now have a slight aversion to snowmen.
"Small snowmen, we're going to avoid those," said Mandi.
Aiden has certainly learned his lesson.
"Snowmen are bad, and don't put things in your mouth," said Aiden.
The Tilley family plans on commemorating this "funny accident" by making it their Christmas card in 2017.
10. Spokane Valley family builds giant, 18' snowman
Chay Moore – to the delight of his stepdaughter, Safira - made a snowman that is almost 20’ tall.
“It was more than 18’ the other night, but it shrank a little bit,” laughed Chay Moore, the mastermind behind the creation. “20’ is the goal, I guess.”
Last year, the family snowman was just 8’ tall.
“I just wanted to make it a little bigger,” explained Moore.
He said he has spent anywhere between 60 to 70 hours, packing snow and shaping the massive snowman. It has a carrot nose, top hat, and coal eyes as tradition requires. They have also used water and food coloring to change the color of the snow in some places.
“The neighbors seen me out in the yard until four in the morning on a couple of nights, when the snow is just perfect,” Moore said. “It was more fun than work, it wasn’t work it was more fun, having fun.”
And even though he knows Frosty will one day melt away, he is holding out hope for a little magic.
“I’m hoping he just comes to life and walks into the cold country,” Moore said.