Cherry blossoms could face serious damage in bitter cold temperatures predicted for weekend

D.C.'s famed cherry blossoms are on the cusp of peak bloom but this weekend's bitter cold temperatures might have an adverse impact on the flowers.

"27 degrees or so, that's the number where we would start to see some loss," Mike Litterst, with the National Park Service, said. Exposure to those low temperatures could result in about a ten percent loss of blossoms, he added. With approximately 3800 trees; however, the overall appearance would not be noticeable with that type of loss.

It's the colder temperatures we need to worry about. "If it goes down to say 24 degrees or lower," Litterst cautioned, "we could be looking at a majority loss of blossoms - perhaps as much as 90 percent." This weekend, the lows are expected to be around 25 to 26 degrees. Just about in range to do some serious damage.

He says officials will keep a very close eye on the trees this weekend given the very fragile state the blossoms are in when they first emerge.

In nearly one-hundred years, Litterst told us, cold weather has never prevented the blossoms from reaching peak bloom. "It's sort of a perfect storm," he said about this year's weather conditions. "We had that real warm stretch of several days that really pushed the blossoms out and then plunging to such deep temperatures - that is almost unprecedented."

About 70 percent of the trees nearing peak bloom are of the Yoshino variety. Litterst says there are several other varieties, some of which tend to bloom weeks after the Yoshino trees.

Regardless of the cold or the numbers of flowers, Litterst says that the activities surrounding the cherry blossoms and the festival will not be impacted by the amount of blooms on the trees.