A continuing streak of warm weather means the famed cherry blossoms in the nation's capital will reach their peak bloom earlier than expected.

National Cherry Blossom Festival spokeswoman Danielle Piacente said Wednesday that the chief horticulturist for the National Park Service is now projecting a peak bloom between March 20 and March 23. Earlier predictions were for between March 24 and March 31.

The blooming period is expected to begin March 18.

The festival is still scheduled from March 20 through April 27. This year's festival marks the 100th anniversary of the gift of trees from Japan.

The National Weather Service says the unusually warm spring weather is likely to last until at least next week across the Great Lakes and the Northeast. Meanwhile, forecasters say the Western U.S. has below normal temperatures.


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