National Mall

National Mall

Snowfall has damaged Tidal Basin cherry trees

February 17, 2010, 7:41 am

This winter's extra-heavy snowfall has damaged one of the region's top tourist attractions.

Along the Tidal Basin near the paddle boats, quite a few of Washington's iconic cherry trees are damaged.

"A number of branches have been split, and there have been a couple of trees that have had the canopies taken off," National Park Service spokesman Bill Line tells WTOP after he toured the area.

In some cases, branches six inches thick have been snapped off. Branches on other cherry trees are bent down to the ground and remain buried under snow.

Line says it's the worst damage to the cherry trees he has seen in nearly nine years with the Park Service, but he's confident that in the long run the trees will be fine.

"The cherry trees are resilient, they'll come back," he says. "There certainly will need to be some pruning and some trimming of the trees."

Also along Maine Avenue near the paddle boats, a massive elm tree has been uprooted. Its trunk has knocked down a portion of metal railing, and its branches are dangling in the water.

"The only way that tree is going to get out of the Tidal Basin is to have it lifted out with a crane," says Line.

He says the tree will be removed in a week to 10 days, and Maine Avenue will have to be temporarily shut down to get the work done.

Will the snow affect how soon the cherry blossoms bloom? Line says it's possible.

"If we have for example, a slow melt and we have overnight temperatures below zero, that probably will slow down and probably will delay the blooming process."

This year's National Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 27 through April 11. The average peak bloom date is April 4.

"We fully expect that this year's Cherry Blossom Festival will be as grand and as glorious as any that we have had in the past," Line says.