- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

As D.C.-area residents navigated icy roads and slushy sidewalks Tuesday, the National Park Service promised that not only is spring on the way, but its blush-colored herald soon will appear.

Washington’s fabled cherry blossom will reach peak bloom April 8 to April 12, said James Perry, chief of resource management for the Park Service, as he assured a crowd gathered at the Newseum to hear the news “to relax and let Mother Nature takes its course.”

“This is not the coldest or the snowiest winter on record,” Mr. Perry said. “These trees have been around 102 years. They’ve experienced this type of weather for 102 years.”

The blossoms’ peak bloom — when more than 70 percent of the buds have opened — has been on many minds thanks to a seemingly unrelenting winter that has brought multiple snowstorms and record low temperatures to the District.

“I like to think that when you’re out by the Tidal Basin, if you squint your eyes when the snow’s coming down, it kind of looks like cherry blossoms,” Mr. Perry said with a smile.

The city’s 3,000 cherry blossom trees were a gift from Japan in 1912. Nearly 1,700 trees ring the Tidal Basin, and some date back to the original planting.

National Park Service horticulturists have said that extended periods of extreme temperatures can affect when the buds will open.

Very hot and very cold temperatures have caused blooms as early as March 15 and as late as April 18. Officials say the blossoms have lasted as long as 18 days and as few as five.

Mr. Perry said the Park Service looks for the green buds on the trees as the first sign that blooming has begun. Because of the sustained cold this winter, however, the blossoms so far have remained safe and dormant.

“The most important factor is what the weatherman tells us,” Mr. Perry said, adding that similar to last year, the peak bloom time prediction could be adjusted depending on the weather.

Last year, a late-season rally by Old Man Winter pushed the bloom back a full week from the Park Service’s original prediction.

National Weather Service officials predicted a 30 to 40 percent chance that average temperatures for the D.C. area in March would be colder than normal.

But even if the blossoms are late, officials said, they do still bloom.

“One thing we can count on is the cherry blossoms will bloom and spring will come,” said Diana Mayhew, president of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. “Spring and the festival will come. We can only hope they coincide together.”

This year’s festival is scheduled for March 20 to April 13.