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Recent warmth to yield early peak for Washington, DC's famed cherry blossoms

As a result of above-average temperatures, cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., are on pace for the earliest peak bloom since 2012.

The bloom is expected to arrive just in time for the start of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival in the nation's capital. The National Park Service estimates that the peak bloom will be reached on March 23-24.

The four-week festival, which runs from March 20 to April 17, draws 1.5 million visitors to Washington, D.C., each year, bringing a $160 million impact to the regional economy, festival spokeswoman Nora Strumpf said.

The Yoshino trees typically bloom for a period of several days, though weather will affect the length of the blooming period, according to the Park Service.

Cool, calm weather can extend the length of the bloom, and a rainy, windy day can bring an abrupt end to the blossoms. A late frost can prevent the trees from blooming at all.

Conditions in Washington, D.C., this year have been conducive for an early blossom, AccuWeather Meteorologist Mike Doll said.

"Since the middle of February, temperatures have averaged about 6 degrees above normal. However, from March 7 through March 16, temperatures have averaged an incredible 13 degrees above normal," Doll said.

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March weather in the mid-Atlantic can be volatile with big temperature swings over the course of a few days.

The region will experience this into the middle of next week, as highs fluctuate from near 15 degrees below normal on Sunday to around 10 degrees above normal during the middle of next week, Doll said.

An early-season storm on Sunday may bring snow to Washington, D.C., but that which does fall won't last long, as temperatures are forecast to increase behind the storm, Doll said.

The weather could slow down the peak bloom, but isn't expected to have a major impact.

The peak bloom date is defined as the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry blossoms are open.

The earliest peak bloom occurred in March 15, 1990, and as late as April 18 in 1958. In 2014 and 2015, the peak was reached on April 10.

The 2016 festival commemorates the 104th anniversary of Tokyo's gift of the Yoshino cherry trees and the friendship between the United States and Japan.

This year's opening ceremony will be held Saturday, March 26, at the Warner Theatre.