Every winter, large areas of the United States are transformed into snow-covered wonderlands. And the freezing weather brings icicles, of course. Interestingly, it’s these spear-like shards that have caused such a stir online. In December 2020 a meteorologist shared a stark warning on social media for users taking part in the viral “icicle challenge.” And what she had to say might churn your stomach.
The person in question is called Katie Nickolaou, and she is based out of Sioux City, Iowa. At the time of writing, the expert has amassed more than 170,000 followers on TikTok. It was on this platform that she would make her grim warning about the viral icicle challenge that would take the internet by storm.
TikTok is predominantly known as a platform for sharing light-hearted moments – such as dancing to music and short comedy skits. Though Nickolaou’s content had a more serious side. The young meteorologist came with an important message to share about the icicle challenge that had recently caught fire on social media. And it concerned human health.
But what on earth is the icicle challenge? Well, essentially it involves grabbing and then eating the frozen water. People have been filming themselves chowing down on the spike-shaped ice as if it is a carrot and then uploading it onto social media. Because… reasons.
Where the icicle challenge originated from and why is another question. Perhaps it was merely out of boredom, but it quickly, ahem, snowballed on TikTok. Judging by the many videos, it is all seen as a bit of light-hearted fun.
But, as Nickolaou would reveal, the icicle challenge was in reality anything but a joke. Taking part in it could actually put participants at risk of contracting serious health issues. Her powerful message has garnered a quite astonishing number of views, too. In fact, it had been viewed an astonishing 13 million times within a few weeks!
Nickolaou is actually the Morning Meteorologist for Siouxland News, so she evidently knows her stuff when it comes to weather and the environment. But the expert likely never expected to achieve the reach that she has done to date. The video also made a change from the other content she posts on social media – some of which is pretty amusing.
Take Nickolaou’s Instagram post from September 2020, for example. Alongside a playful picture of herself, she wrote, “I’m 50 percent Greek and 50 percent Scottish. That means I have wild, curly, untamable hair. Even after straightening it every morning, it still won’t cooperate! The only thing that works is my brother’s hair gel that I stole. I smell like a middle-school locker room!”
Another example of the fun she often has on her social media platforms came from an Instagram post the previous month. It featured a photograph of Nickolaou in a white vest top on a dirt track somewhere surrounded by fields. In actual fact, she was cosplaying! Nickolaou wrote, “As a meteorologist, and someone born in 1996, it’s only natural for me to cosplay Jo from Twister! Maybe they’ll cast me in the reboot?”
In April 2020 Nickolaou proved her comic talents again with an amusing visual gag. In an icy setting, the meteorologist posted a video of herself in a car with the caption, “I have two words for you Mother Nature…” In the video, she puts her head straight through what appears at first to be the glass window of the vehicle. But it is actually a sheet of ice that has formed over the open space. Then, perplexed by the freezing weather in spring, she then delivers the punchline to her caption. Nickolaou says, “It’s April!”
Clearly, Nickolaou posts a lot of fun content across her social media. But she also has a serious side. On her Twitter account, the expert writes, “I chase tornadoes [and] post fun facts about the weather… I [also] post the weather from around Siouxland and the world in general.”
Nickolaou was born in 1996 in Battle Creek, Michigan. According to the Siouxland News website, she saw a tornadic storm in the Wolverine State at the age of five. This apparently piqued her interest and put her on the path to becoming a meteorologist.
Yes, that frightening experience inspired the inquisitive young girl to begin reading numerous books about the weather. She subsequently developed a particular interest in snow and tornadoes over the following years, according to the channel’s website.
Then, in 2011 things got closer to home for Nickolaou – quite literally. A tornado that was mercifully weak struck her home, according to Siouxland News. Though the event only served to increase her interest in the weather.
Nickolaou gained minor local fame via her “Snow Day Forecasts” toward the end of the young woman’s time in high school. The teenager apparently had both teachers and fellow students from across districts contacting her to ask questions. She then went off to Indiana’s Valparaiso University to further her knowledge – earning a degree in meteorology plus a minor in digital media.
During her time at university, Nickolaou took part in four field studies in the central United States to analyze severe weather first-hand. This included a spell following her lifelong fascination: tornadoes. Yes, the Michigan-born meteorologist followed in the footsteps of her big screen hero – Helen Hunt’s character Jo Harding from the movie Twister.
So as you can see, Nickolaou went on quite the educational journey to arrive at her current position as a broadcast meteorologist. She is well known to viewers and online followers for her good-natured and playful demeanor. But Nickolaou also really knows what she is talking about. And she is fully aware of the stomach-churning dangers of eating icicles.
Nickolaou’s expert credentials in meteorology and the weather has been illustrated by many of her online posts. So, let’s have a look at a few of them and discover what she tells her followers. After all, you might be quite surprised by some of the questions she has answered!
In a short TikTok video about icicles, Nickolaou remarks, “I get asked all the time, can you use an icicle as a weapon? It’d be the perfect crime.” But the meteorologist quickly rejects the idea. She shouts out, “No it wouldn’t be! Because… it breaks!” She then attacks her friend with an icicle and we see the instrument fall apart.
In another video, Nickolaou explains the finer points of a blizzard. Stood outside without a coat on, she exclaims, “Well, if you’ve ever wanted to be in a blizzard, here’s one! It’s snowing quite a bit, but most importantly with a blizzard, it’s that wind. The wind that causes the blowing snow, well that has to be sustained for about three hours, and it has to be over 35 miles per hour. And that’s when you can jump towards blizzard criteria.”
So, now we know how well placed Nickolaou is to send a dire warning about the viral icicle challenge. But how do the icy shapes themselves actually form? And why did videos depicting people trying to eat them become so popular?
The website Live Science notes, “Icicles typically form on days when the outdoor air temperature is subfreezing but sunshine warms and melts some snow or ice. As it drips off your roof, a water droplet freezes when it loses its heat to the cold air. An icicle starts with a few frozen droplets. When it reaches a certain size, drops begin to drip along the side of the structure.”
Though what about the icicle challenge trend on TikTok? Well, the first thing to note is just how popular it got! At the time of writing, the hashtag icicles has been viewed more than 50 million times on the social media platform.
It seems that people just couldn’t get enough! One clip posted by someone called Antti Niittyviita shows him him pulling an icicle off a rooftop and eating it like a carrot. Amazingly, it has acquired nearly four million likes at the time of writing.
Next up we have Lars Bryne. His icicle challenge post has received more than six million views on TikTok. And there are countless other efforts across numerous other social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Anyway, Nickolaou decided to take action after becoming alarmed at seeing the icicle trend in action. And she did so by creating her own video on the platform. The short clip begins with an unnamed woman taking part in the challenge. The individual tears an icicle from a rooftop and munches down on it. The camera then cuts to Nickolaou, who states, “Please don’t do that! I’m a meteorologist – I should know.”
Nickolaou then explains exactly why you shouldn’t partake in the icicle eating challenge. And it’s a stomach-churning revelation. She says, “When icicles form, it’s from water that melts off of your roof and runs down the side of a building. Well, here’s the thing – you know what else is on your roof? Bird poop. A lot of it.”
Wielding one of the icy spikes, Nickolaou continues, “And that water picks it up and freezes it in the ice. You’re eating poop!” Oh dear. It turns out that you might be better off grabbing a popsicle from the freezer instead.
Anyway, as we mentioned earlier, the TikTok video went majorly viral online. At the time of writing, it has amassed an astonishing 3.4 million likes and nearly 60,000 shares. Nickolaou’s phone must have practically blown up if she’d had her notifications turned on! So, what did some of the people say?
Well, a number of the TikTok crowd either dismissed or tried to downplay the young meteorologist’s fears. One user wrote, “Still not gonna stop me.” And another replied, “I ate a lot when I was a kid…” Though whether the majority of these users were being serious is another matter entirely.
In response to Nickolaou’s impassioned plea to stop eating icicles, another account remarked, “Is that supposed to stop us?” Furthermore, one user opined, “Interesting (crunch crunch),” as if they were tucking in and ignoring the advice.
Nickolaou was nonetheless taken aback by the response she got from the short TikTok clip. She told Fox News in January 2021, “I’ve seen videos circulating on social media of people eating icicles for a few weeks now. I always love telling people weather facts, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to spread some funny, geeky knowledge. I never thought it would go viral!”
Nickolaou then said that she found it “very strange” that her TikTok video had achieved such reach. But the meteorologist said that her new fans and followers should stay put, because she had plans for more weather updates and tidbits in the weeks and months to come across her social media profiles. Nickolaou remarked, “I’m just glad that so many people are interested in learning more wild weather facts!”
But the response to Nickolaou’s TikTok post has not all been positive. Incredibly, the affable weather girl revealed something very dark had come about off the back of it. So, she took to Twitter in mid-January to explain all.
Astonishingly, Nickolaou had received violent messages after the TikTok video. She wrote on Twitter, “Ah yes, nothing like waking up to anonymous death threats because you said icicles can contain poop.” She added, “Law enforcement has been notified.”
Thankfully, it appears the threats that she received have not deterred the cheery weather girl. And she has made good on her promise to provide more wild weather facts. The meteorologist then took on the trend of eating outdoor snow in a similarly themed video to her icicle revelation.
The TikTok clip begins with someone pouring fruity flavoring over the top of snow cones in order to consume them. Then it cuts to an outdoor Nickolaou, who appears with a slight smirk on her face. She asks, “Should I tell them?” Then after a brief pause for effect, the weather girl adds, “You might be eating snow fleas!”
Nickolaou then adds some detail about the strange little pests. She goes on, “They’re not really fleas but they’re still a type of insect that are everywhere, they’re abundant. And they actually can survive in the snow. They look like little flecks of spice, mixed in with the snow. And erm, yeah if you eat it, you could be eating snow fleas.”
But fleas aren’t the only thing you’d consume if you ate an outdoor snow cone. As Nickolaou states, there would probably be “dust and dirt – all the pollution in the atmosphere that the snowflake collects on its way down.” Hmm, that doesn’t sound so appetizing now, does it?
Nickolaou subsequently concludes her TikTok video with a simple message. She says, “Just don’t eat snow! Make a snow cone from ice in the freezer! Indoor ice!” Well, now we know what could be in it, I think most of us will surely follow that advice. In fact, it would be a good idea to stay tuned to Nickolaou’s social media accounts to find out fascinating new tidbits about the weather and related things. It’ll be fun, and we might all learn something new.