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D.C. Cherry Blossoms Damaged by Return of Winter

16 Mar 2017, 7:55 am

It’s something that hasn’t happened in the 105 year history of the cherry trees in the Tidal Basin.

Cold temperatures damaged the early season blossoms of the Yoshino Cherry tree.

Mild Winter Sparked Early Bloom

Extremely mild winter temperatures and ample sun got things off to an early start this year.
In fact the early signs of blossoming buds prompted park forecasters to issue one of the earliest forecast peak blooms on record.

Cherry Blossom Peak Might Happen Earlier Than Ever Before

A Changing Weather Pattern

Soon after the ambitious forecast, the eastern U.S. experienced a major change in the weather pattern.

A shift in the jet stream and a deep trough over the eastern states brought colder temperatures and a delayed forecast.

Cherry Blossom Update: Cold Temps Delay Peak

Unfortunately this was just the start of a much bigger problem.
This past week a massive Nor’easter brought a round of snow to our nation’s capital and a reinforcement of cold air.

The Aftermath

Temperatures dropped well below the threshold of a hard freeze– 2 or more hours of temperatures below 26°F.

Following the bitter cold temperatures the National Park Service inspected the trees and found that the blossoms in the fifth stage of the bloom (puffy white) suffered widespread damage.
But beyond that, blossoms in the fourth stage (elongated-peduncle) could suffer damage as well.

We will know the full extent of damage to the trees in the next 24-48 hours.

Peak Bloom

As for the peak bloom, well that has gone relatively unchanged.
Though delayed, the remaining blossoms are still expected to peak early next week.

Yoshino Cherry: March 19-22

Now don’t expect a normal bloom, all that will peak are the remaining buds not destroyed by this most recent blast of cold.

Yoshino Cherry trees are the most prominent in the Tidal Basin, 70% to get close.
But there is another tree that typically blooms a bit later in the season!
Kwanzans are the second most prominent tree at about 13%, and those are still expected to take a few more weeks for full bloom!

Kwanzans Cherry Tree: April 10-13

Festival

Despite the cold weather and damage to the trees, the festivities still begin this Saturday in the National Mall.
And if you plan on using your Spring Break to take part in the Cherry Blossom Festival– there is always the rest of our Nation’s Capital for you to check out!

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

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