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Update March 8, 3:42 p.m.

The National Park Service says in a release on Tuesday that it has moved the projected peak bloom dates for the cherry trees forward by more than a week:

“Driven by this week’s sustained, unseasonably warm temperatures, the projected peak bloom dates for the cherry blossoms has been revised to March 18-23. Although the National Park Service factored above average March temperatures into the original prediction date, potentially record-setting temperatures, averaging nearly 20 degrees above normal for the next week, have greatly accelerated the bloom watch. In response to the earlier peak bloom, the Tidal Basin Welcome Area, located near the paddle boats at Maine Avenue SW and Raoul Wallenberg Place SW, will now be open from March 18 – April 3 (it was previously scheduled from April 2-17).”

Original Post:

It’s chilly and windy today, but in less than a month, hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists will visit the Tidal Basin to see more than 3,000 cherry trees at their peak bloom, from March 31 to April 3.

While that projection may change based on March forecasts, Diana Mayhew, president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, said this morning at the Newseum that “peak bloom” means that more than 70 percent of the Yoshino trees surrounding the basin will be flowering.  At the time of their planting, the trees were called “the most ideally, wonderfully beautiful tree that nature has to show,” Mayhew said. That was over a century ago, in March 1912.

The Cherry Blossom Festival is one of D.C.’s biggest tourist events, bringing upwards of 1.5 million visitors to the Tidal Basin and their dollars to District businesses. D.C. earned $7 billion in total tourism revenue in 2014.

The 2016 festival will officially run from March 20 to April 17.

Photo by Andrew Giambrone