xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Chilly weather delays tangible signs of spring

At this point last year, the trees at Baugher's Orchard near Westminster were past their peak bloom.

Bees had already buzzed around the white blossoms on sweet cherry trees. The Bel Air peach trees had already grown pink blooms the size of a half-dollar.

What a difference a year makes. Still no blooms. No bees. No warmth.

After a cooler-than-average March, tangible signs of spring have not yet appeared in the mid-Atlantic.

The grass is not yet tall enough for cutting. The fruit trees, still lacking blooms, are weeks behind last year's schedule.

"This is the very extreme opposite of last year," said Dwight Baugher, the farm and orchard operator for the fruit and vegetable farm west of Westminster that dates back to 1904. "The cold [weather] is making everything late."

The average temperature in March was 40.6 degrees at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. That's 3 degrees cooler than average, according to the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington forecast office. It's 13 degrees cooler than the average temperature last March, which was the warmest on record in Washington.

Temperatures reached 55 degrees or warmer on just four March days at a WeatherBug.com weather station at Manchester Valley High School in Manchester. The average high temperature in the region in late March and early April is roughly 60 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

While temperatures moderated this weekend, a cold front is expected to usher in more cooler-than-average weather. The National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures of 42 today, 48 Wednesday and 52 Thursday.

The chilly stretch has delayed the iconic D.C. cherry blossoms.

The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival started March 20, without even a hint of budding trees along the Tidal Basin.

"The National Park Service is standing by the peak of April 3-6 at this point," wrote festival spokeswoman Danielle Piacente in an e-mail.

The peak bloom could be even later. But even if the peak bloom occurs as expected, it would be the latest since 2005, when the blossoms began to peak April 9. Last year, spurned by the historically warm spring, the cherry blossoms peaked March 20.

The chilly start to spring will delay everything, said Bryan R. Butler Sr., a regional fruit educator working with the University of Maryland Extension's Carroll County office.

That may not necessarily be a bad thing, he said. Last year, crops and trees were susceptible to frosts and freezes after the early-spring heat wave.

"The longer it stays cooler, the longer it takes to warm up, the less likely we would have issues with those late-spring frosts that cause all those problems," he said.

Last year, late season freezes damaged fruit crops in places such as New York and Michigan, said Baugher, who had minimal losses. It drove up the price of apples, which benefited his orchard.

The delay in the growing season minimizes the risk of a damaging freeze, not just for him, but for growers throughout the region. That could mean cheaper prices this year, he said.

"In the agriculture world, someone usually has to suffer for others to do well, and that's exactly what happened last year," he said.

Baugher is expecting the fruit growing season to be roughly one week behind average and several weeks behind last year's. Long-term forecasts point to a gradual warming trend, he said.

When that happens, the blooms will return, the bees will buzz and spring will finally appear, Butler said.

"Once the weather warms up and the weather starts taking off, things can get caught up pretty fast," Butler said. "It doesn't take long for everything to get back on schedule."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement