Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 18, 2017

No new photos today, but some useful information came in late yesterday about the NPS's take on where things stand.

I wasn’t originally planning an update today, and there are no new photos–the one above is from yesterday. But there’s some useful information to share nonetheless.

Late yesterday afternoon, the National Park Service said that they judged that about 50 percent of the cherry blossoms survived the cold and that they expected those to bloom late next week. They didn’t mention specific dates, but it suggests that their current thinking is in the March 22-25 range.

It’s not a formal revision of the peak bloom date, as such. Interestingly, the later dates are because the cherry blossoms that were at more advanced stages were wiped out. That reduced the pool and alters the calculation of when the 70 percent threshold is reached. Since only half survived, it’s never going to cross 70 percent of the total. Maybe they won’t record a formal peak bloom date this year. Maybe they’ll add an asterisk. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle it.

So here’s the kicker: based on current weather forecasts, we might see some very cold overnight temperatures again towards the middle and end of the coming week, just when the remaining cherry blossoms are blooming. Of course, weather forecasts change, but it’s still something to have on the radar.

The Story So Far

If you’re just tuning in, here’s a quick recap of where we’re at.

It has been a topsy-turvy lead-up to the bloom this year. A warmer than normal winter led into a very warm February. That brought the cherry blossoms to the verge of blooming around mid-March. It was even shaping up to be possibly the earliest on record.

Then an arctic blast hit (well, actually two, but the one over the past week has been the most significant for the cherry blossoms–the saucer magnolias got wiped out in the first one). It slowed the development to a crawl. It also caused widespread damage to many of the blossoms because it came right when many were just on the verge of blooming and at their most vulnerable. A snow and ice storm turned them into cherry blossom popsicles. But we’re through that now, and temperatures are moderating.

The NPS says that about half of the cherry blossoms survived the cold and that they expect those to be fully blooming late next week (roughly March 22-24 or so). Because of the damage caused by a string of nights with cold, freezing temperatures, it will be a more subdued and reduced bloom this year than the kind of full-throated, dramatic bloom for which DC’s cherry blossoms are famous.

Cherry Blossom Watch Instagram Feed

I’ve started a new Cherry Blossom Watch Instagram account. I’ll often be able to post short updates there more quickly than on the website, so if you want to get a jump on the very latest updates, be sure to check it out.

You can follow it at @cherryblossomwatch.

For Photographers

Sunrise tomorrow at the Tidal Basin is at 7:12AM and sunset at 7:19PM.

The sunrise will be at precisely 90° (perfectly East) and sunrise at 270° (perfectly West), which lines up nicely along the National Mall and many of DC’s downtown streets (creating DC Henge). If the clouds will just get out of the way, that is.


Maine Ave SW Parking Lot

It’s closed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. They’ve started setting up temporary tents and facilities for the Welcome Center due to open on March 15.

Traffic Restrictions on Ohio Drive

The temporary traffic restrictions are now in place. Ohio Drive SW is now one-way, and the entrance to it from the Lincoln Memorial end is closed. To get to it you have to enter via Maine Ave SW and go around the Jefferson Memorial.

Photos from this Morning

No new photos today, but you can see how things were looking yesterday. I wouldn’t expect it the cherry blossoms to look much different today–a few more are likely inching their way forward–with the exception of being damp and overcast.

I plan to post some new pictures tomorrow morning.

Last updated March 18, 2017

View Comments

    • It looks like the main ones will be done by then. It's possible there might still be some late stragglers, but if so it probably won't be many. It might also be a bit early for the Kwanzan cherry blossoms, which bloom a bit later, but I have more on them here.

      • oh bummer! Thank you for the reply though. My husband and I are visiting from out of town (Kentucky) and I wanted to show him the cherry blossoms this year. I loved seeing the blossoms every year when I lived in the DC area.