Walk around the Puget Sound area and you'll notice trees starting to bloom and perhaps the whirr of a lawn mower or two, even though winter still had a solid 3-4 weeks left in its reign.
Seattle finished up February as the warmest on record, on the heels of a very warm January (and record-warm December) as well, and the early spring-time weather has in tandem brought out the first signs of spring.
That applies to the tulips and flowers that normally bloom in April for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. With the warm winter this year, they too are getting a bit of a head start.
"The warm temperatures have definitely affected the bloom time of the tulips," said Jeannette DeGoede with Tulip Town.
The festival traditionally opens April 1 and runs through April 30 with the average time of initial bloom about a week into April. Warmer weather will push them out early while a cool February and March can put the show on hold until mid-April.
This year, they're blooming early, and that has Tulip Town opening a few days ahead of schedule to take advantage of the weekend and to make sure people can come while the flowers are out.
"We will open the 27th of March with lots of bloom. People who come early will have a beautiful showing of tulips," DeGoede said, adding the tulips' timing is perfect with Easter on the first weekend in April when they expect to have 30 varieties of tulips in bloom. "Easter will be spectacular with color, with lots of bouquets and pots for purchase."
She said they've opened early in the past but only had one or two varieties of tulips showing color then. But this year, with record warmth, comes record -- early tulip color?
"This is the first time we have experienced so many varieties that will show color (in late March)," she said.
So if you are one of the hundreds of thousands who are planning on going to see the tulips this year, DeGoede says the earlier, the better.
"We are a bit concerned that our customers won’t realize the flowers will be blooming this early," she said. "We depend on the festival to make our livings, so we're just kind of hoping that our customers will realize they need to come early year."
Brent Roozen with Roozengaard Tulips concurs.
They operate year 'round but say their daffodils have bloomed about 10-14 days earlier than they've ever picked and it's about 2-3 weeks ahead of normal.
Roozen says their earliest tulip bloom was March 19 but there could be some definite color by next week and full blooms in mid-March. "We're going to break that (record) big time. We'll break it by a week at least," Roozen said.
Now, if Mother Nature really wanted to help them out, she'd cool things down a bit once we get into April. Once the tulips begin to bloom, if the warm weather keeps going, it'll accelerate the growing process to where the tulips won't last as long. Cooler weather will act like a refrigerator and keep the tulips lasting longer.
"If we got cooler with highs in the high 40s and low 50s in April, it will extend them and we'll get an extended season," Roozen said.
But no matter what the weather dishes out over the next eight weeks, tulips are a hearty bunch -- they'll have a show whether it rains for days or it's sunny and 65 every day. About the only weather danger for tulips is hail.
And Roozen says even if we're destined to stay sunny and warm through March and accelerate the season a bit, he tends to take a "glass all full approach" -- it'll be perfect weather for the crowds to come see.
"If it's in the 50s and sunny, I'll take it as we've seen a lot worse," he said. "People will come out to see them, so that's a positive."
Just be sure to come early.