My previous life found me in the news rooms and control rooms of various Boston TV stations producing the days' news. And yes, I produced the occasional snow show.
Snow shows don't exist much anymore, but back then when a big storm came to town we'd do "wall-to-wall coverage" of this snow event. We'd put reporters on highways and in emergency bunkers. They'd stand out on street corners and on beaches. We'd jump from live-shot to live-shot warning viewers to stay in side, make some hot chocolate and continue watching our coverage.
On one level this was born out of public service. Following the Blizzard of '78, everyone in Boston knows that snow can be dangerous and being in it can cause problems. So TV found itself in a great situation of having a positive message that actually brought in viewers (and advertisers).
Also, people just love talking about the weather. So when you put snow coverage at the top of the newscasts and warn people of a pending storm, it brings in viewers. Will they cancel school? Will I make my flight? Can I skip work and justify a day in my jammies watching wall-to-wall snow coverage of fools in the snow while sipping hot chocolate?
The danger here is pretty simple. You become the boy who cried wolf.
Predicting the weather isn't easy. In fact, it's downright hard. The problem is that the TV stations promote their weather forecasts as accurate, so when they turn around and say "oops, we got it wrong" it erodes the trust they've built with the audience.
Right now I'm sitting in my kitchen and watching the snow NOT come down. Sure, more may come later, but my school district closed schools early today. Men and women who normally would be working had to take time off to get their kids. Kids who would be in school weren't and really, for what? A 1/4 inch of slush? This is Boston, we can handle that.
I don't mind being prepared, but TV stations please don't throw us into a panic. Because when you really do have a warning and it's something we should worry about, we won't.