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A gnarly winter storm is threatening to freeze off 90 percent of DC's cherry blossoms


UPDATE 10:45 a.m. EST:  Here's what the Tidal Basin in D.C. looks like after the snowstorm.

A gnarly winter storm is threatening to freeze off 90 percent of DC's cherry blossoms

WATCH  |  Cherry blossom season in D.C. is a pretty big deal. Will a powerful winter storm wipe them out before they get a chance to bloom?

Hundreds of thousands of people come from all over the world to snap photos of the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. each year.

Maybe not this year, though.

After an unseasonably warm winter, the blooms started flourishing way sooner than expected. And, the overnight snow storm threatened to freeze them off.

Cherry Blossoms, 2017. (Credit: Circa)

But it's not the snow that could kill the delicate blooms. It's the frigid temperatures.

That may lead to a less than stellar peak bloom.

"24 degrees or lower, we could be looking at perhaps 90 percent loss," Mike Litterest of the National Park Service told WJLA. "If it happens, it's essentially a perfect storm of conditions that may lead to a less than stellar peak bloom here."

NPS said peak bloom for the cherry blossoms would be from March 14-17, but bumped that date to March 19-22 when the temperature dropped.

NPS cares for the trees, which were gifted to the U.S. by Japan in the 1920s, year round. There are currently 12 different species and over 3,800 trees.

"There’s actually about 100 of the original trees still here," Diana Mayhew, president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, told Circa.

At this point, snow forecasts keep getting worse. 

Cherry Blossoms, 2017. (Credit: Circa)

And this could spell trouble not just for the blushing flowers, but also for the city if tourists don't show up.

So if the blossoms bite the dust, what happens to all the sight-seers and festival-goers?

"The festival continues whether the blossoms are in bloom or not," Mayhew said. "We’ll wait and see what actually happens to the blossoms, that would be a completely unfortunate if some of them were destroyed, but the festival, again, will continue as scheduled."

(WJLA contributed to this report.)

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