- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2017

How dare she mess with the NCAA tournament and the cherry blossoms.

That’s Stella, as in Stella the double-fisted winter storm that’s threatening to punch her way from the Plains eastward before moving into Maine.

It seems the last laugh isn’t on those of you who took the word of prognosticator Shipoke Sheena over trusty-dusty Punxsutawney Phil. After all, Sheena is merely a dog in groundhog’s clothing while Phil is the real deal. Phil saw his shadow on Feb. 2 (remember?), predicting six more weeks of winterlike weather.

Now along comes Stella — or, more acutely, STELLA!!! (The storm that’s forecast to deliver a blow the mid-Atlantic and move straight on to New England is worthy of my best Marlon Brando impression.)

As with any winter storm, Stella’s whipping skirt tails are expected to disrupt our daily routines, including happy hour. However, she’s also going to disrupt our planned activities — and why not. As the humorous insider saying goes, “If you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans.”

The cherry blossoms are in bloom again. The first four NCAA match-ups begin Tuesday, and the first dance to the Division I championship tips off on Thursday in Buffalo, New York, where snow and below-zero temps are winter staples.

“There’s concern about the Buffalo site,” Mark Hollis, chairman of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee, said Sunday. “The process is, we’re trying to get everyone in earlier. We’re maneuvering with our travel agents to make that happen for teams and officials.”

The schools’ students and fans need to get to those games safely, too.

You do not, of course, have to be a hoops fan to appreciate his concern for safety. Travel agents for Jane and John HittheroadJack are on the lookout for warmer climates and, with spring break around the corner, they and their college-age dependents are looking for a break.

Fortunately, airlines learned over the weekend that Stella could get her groove on. Airlines already have canceled more than 4,000 flights.

The really good news is that the airlines also have granted waivers, but please — please — check with your carrier because there are stipulations.

As for the cherry blossoms, chalk it up to trying to fool Mother Nature, who granted a warmer-than-usual winter that led National Park Service predictors to push the peak-bloom dates to Tuesday through Friday. Then, Stella blew that down. Now, the peak date changed to Sunday through March 22.

Perhaps Punxsutawney Phil read the “Old Farmers Almanac” before venturing out for his prediction. The Almanac, established in 1792, offered a head’s up. Its prediction was “March 12-20: Periods of rain and snow, cold.”

And so it is.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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