Cold snap tops news across Europe

German public broadcasters warm to the opportunity

COLOGNE, Germany -- As the worst cold snap in decades sends shivers across Europe, newscasts from Paris to Ukraine dedicated programming to talking about the weather.

In France, thousands were stranded after snow nearly shut down Charles de Gaulle airport. Even normally sunny Marseille was blanketed with freakish freezing weather. In the port city of Rotterdam, authorities deployed an icebreaking ship for the first time in 12 years.

In the Balkans, the weather report took on a political dimension after a contract dispute between Russia and Ukraine caused gas supplies to be cut to southeastern Europe.

Germany has been among the hardest hit by the winter weather, with snow and ice causing traffic chaos across the country. In one area of eastern Germany, the mercury plunged to a record low of minus 27.7 Celsius (-18 Fahrenheit).

But German public broadcasters warmed to the opportunity. Two news specials on the chilly weather beat out primetime competition to take the ratings crown Wednesday night. ARD's "Cold Chamber Germany" drew 6.6 million viewers, while 4.7 million tuned in "Refrigerator Germany" on ZDF.