- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2011

The sub-freezing temperatures Sunday and dusting of snow was a surprise for many of the first of millions of visitors expected to come to Washington during the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. Organizers were so concerned about snow and blustery winds that they postponed the kite festival.

Along the Tidal Basin, ringed with 1,678 Cherry Blossom trees and their pinkish-white blooms, hundreds walked under steely-gray skies wrapped in parkas and scarves.

“The weather forecast from Seattle said bring your rain gear and that it would be relatively mild,” said Bill Tracy, who was in town for a convention. “Fortunately I packed my heavier coat. The weather’s been cold but we’ve still been able to go out.”

Katie Ricklefs and traveling partner Olivia Lutz, from the Bay Area in California, knew the weather would be cold but were a little surprised when their taxi driver told them about the snow.

“I bought a hat,” said Ms. Ricklefs, gesturing to her Cherry Blossom baseball cap.

Said Ms. Lutz: “We don’t get much snow in that California area. This is exciting.”

Street vendor Bruce Ward said visitors wiped out his supply of coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

“Everybody got scared away by the weather,” he said, but those who braved the chill began looking for a warm treat.

By mid-morning most of the snow had melted in the city and the National Weather Service had lifted its winter advisory. But area temperatures remained in the mid-40s with winds gusting from the northwest at about 10 mph.

National Park Service spokesman Bill Line said neither the light dusting nor the low temperatures harmed the blossoms, which are expected to be at their best this week.

He pointed out that the 3,750 trees in the District and their blossoms survived more snow in 2007 and 2003. In 2003, 11 inches of snow fell on March 30.

“The snow did not hurt, did not damage, did not place a burden on the blooms,” he said. “People had to bundle up a bit more, but this is March and early April. This is typical weather in Washington.”

New Jersey resident Ken and Megan Kozielski and their three young daughters knew the weather might cancel the Blossom Kite Festival. Still, they drove down for the weekend with a big kite in hand.

“We came down four years ago and just stumbled upon it,” Mrs. Kozielski said.

The rescheduled date for the kite festival will be announced Monday.

Herndon resident Allison Matthews and her two young sons knew what to expect when coming to see the trees, a gift from Japan in 1912.

“We were here a few years ago when it was super cold,” Ms. Matthews said. “But it’s the cherry blossoms and they only happen once a year.”

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