For the first time in nearly a century, DC’s famous cherry blossom trees may not hit peak bloom.
Mike Litterst with the National Park Service says it’s been a roller coaster of a season. So far the thousands of blossoms have been hanging in there, but another round of winter weather could finally do them in.
“What causes the damage is the cold temperatures,” said Litterst. “Twenty-seven degrees is sort of the magic number below that we can start to see some damage. If it gets down to 24 degrees we could see as much as 90 percent loss of the blossoms.”
Just over a week ago, the cherry blossoms were set to break records for early blooms. This week- tourists are getting just a hint of pink.
“I’m just glad we caught a little bit of it today. But yeah, it’s been beautiful,” said Brooke Campos, a tourist from Salt Lake City.
The Yoshino variety- the kind more than 1.5 million tourists flock to see each year around the tidal pool will be the hardest hit in the city. They started to bloom early with warm temperature- and will be their most vulnerable as temperatures turn to freezing during the week.
The National Park Service started tracking the blooms since 1921, this is the first year they’ve seen the blooms at risk of being frozen out.
“We could be looking at a first time," said Litterst, “when the Yoshino trees- the most abundant variety of trees- don’t make it to peak bloom.”’
Litterst says water at the tidal pool usually helps to moderate the cold temperatures, but if the forecast for the week is as predicted, it’ll be just too cold for the blossoms to survive.
Peak bloom or no- the annual cherry blossom festival is set to start on March 20th.