NPS: Cherry Blossoms should bloom, despite cold weather

Cherry Blossom. (Photo: Richard Reeve/ ABC7 News)

It was sunny and 52-degrees Friday: pretty good weather for blossom watching.

“Everything is kind of melting out,” says Jessica Brodway, visiting DC from Philadelphia. “Getting ready to get nice and warm here.”

Nearby, the National Park Service confirmed the metro area’s cold snap has done its damage, killing all the cherry blossoms in the crucial ‘puffy white’ stage.

“About fifty percent of the Yoshino trees were at that stage and there was almost complete loss of those emerging blossoms,” Park Service spokesperson Mike Litterst told reporters.

Litterst says blossom fans won’t see the same density of pink and white as in other years.

But the park service is promising a ‘spectacular’ show, when the surviving blossoms hit peak bloom sometime next weekend.

“There will be a brilliant display of the white and pink blooms, as we welcome Spring officially to the nation’s capital,” says park service Superintendent Gay Vietzke.

Peak bloom was supposed to happen March 19th through the 22nd.

Instead, multiple days of warm weather, pushed the blooms out early.

Then came the cold snap.

The worst of it was last Tuesday, when temperatures plummeted to 24 degrees and lower.

A kill zone for the fragile blossoms.

“I think it is the perfect storm, but hopefully, they’re resilient,” says Jesse Gellert, from the District. “I saw the picture of the ice built on them, but I’m hopeful, hopeful they’ll bounce back.”

There’s more weather uncertainty ahead, with possible 20 degree temperatures in the week ahead.

The roller-coaster weather is forcing the park service to keep close watch.

“We are in uncharted territory here,” Litterst says. “This is something that has never happened in the 105-year history of the blossoms around the tidal basin.”

At least on this Saint Patrick’s Day, there’s one good sign: the tourists are arriving.

“They're not the greatest, but they're starting to get there,” says Brodway, idly looking at the blossoms that have yet to bloom. “I think in a few days when it warms up a bit, it'll look nicer than it does today.”

Litterst says park service horticulturalists did some cuttings on trees that had not peaked.

Experts believe 95% of the blossoms on the those trees will do fine.

The timing, and the temperature in coming days will be crucial for the blossoms and their fans.

“It's a nice little mix to have a little spring in the winter, kind of at the same time,” says Peter Kung, visiting from Raleigh. “So it’s awesome.”

The 2017 National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off this Saturday, March 18.

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