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Cherry blossom peak bloom is hard to predict

Sunday - 3/17/2013, 12:02pm  ET

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The Park Service tells WTOP that it is hard to know for sure when the blossoms will peak. (Roll Call/Getty Images)

Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- The first of thousands of visitors to the National Cherry Blossom Festival may not see many blossoms at all.

"When the festival begins, which is March 20, there will not be many blossoms, or just a few," ABC7 and WTOP Meteorologist Mike Stinneford says.

"Remember the peak blooming period is when 70 percent or more of the blossoms are out. I think that's going to wait until April, so we're probably going to be well into the festival before we see the peak bloom this year," he adds.

The National Park Service's initial prediction for peak bloom is between March 26 and March 30.

The Park Service tells WTOP that the official prediction has not changed, but it is hard to know for sure when the blossoms will peak, more than ten days out.

"Usually the bloom is affected by the weather just the last two or three weeks right before the peak bloom, and looking at the extended forecast, it looks like it's going to be rather cool for the rest of March, maybe even into early April. That may delay the blooms, especially if we get a lot of cold weather at night, so I'm thinking they may have to push this back," Stinneford says.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the peak bloom comes sometime between April 1 and April 7," he says.

The average peak bloom date is April 4. The last time peak bloom came later than April 1, was 2005, when peak bloom was April 9.

Last year's peak bloom was March 20. Many of the blossoms didn't last long because of a storm.

The 2013 Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 20 through April 14. The fireworks festival is on April 6, and the parade is April 13.

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