What will cold, blustery weather mean for DC’s cherry blossoms?

Cherry blossom trees are seen during peak bloom along the National Mall beneath the Washington Monument in downtown Washington, D.C. on March 29, 2021. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)

Thanks to warmer-than-expected temperatures last weekend, D.C.’s cherry blossoms popped out ahead of schedule and swathed the Tidal Basin in their famous pink-and-white hues.

But will cold, blustery weather in the forecast spell their doom? Not necessarily, but it’s a possibility, the National Park Service says.

Cool, calm weather can actually extend the length of the peak bloom, said Mike Litterst, spokesman for the National Park Service.

On the other hand, heavy rain and wind — or extreme cold — can bring an abrupt end to the blossoms.

The forecast for Thursday evening does not look promising.

The National Weather Service said showers with rain, sleet, snow pellets and even snow are expected to cross through the region particularly in points north and west. “A cold, windy night will follow, with sub-freezing temps and even colder wind chills,” the weather service said.

“It’s something we’re certainly going to keep an eye on … The longer the petals are on the trees, the more likely it is that strong wind or a heavy rain is going to bring them down,” Litterst told WTOP earlier in the day.

After nightfall Thursday, things get even more critical. If temperatures reach about 27 degrees or lower for at least 30 minutes, “that would actually kill the blossoms,” Litterst said.

The Yoshino cherry trees — originally forecast to reach peak bloom this weekend — sped their way to peak bloom on Sunday, almost a week earlier than predicted.

The March 28 peak bloom date was in line with the past few years. In 2017, about half the blossoms were killed off before reaching peak bloom due to a late frost in mid-March of that year.

Officials have been urging crowds to stay away from the Tidal Basin to preserve social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, warning that access to the blossoms could be cut off if crowds grow too large.

You can catch a glimpse of the cherry trees on the #BlossomCam, which is operated by the Trust for the National Mall. You can also get an up-close-and-personal look at the buds in WTOP’s cherry blossom photo gallery.

WTOP’s Kyle Cooper contributed to this report.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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