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Spring-like weather sprang early in East Tennessee, but winter isn't over yet

The daffodils are already in bloom and some trees are blossoming, but this is East Tennessee weather we're talking about here. Winter isn't over yet.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The cherry blossoms are blooming, the daffodils and ephemerals have sprung up from the ground, and across East Tennessee right now-- spring is in the air. 

Hey, we're not even through February! It's still winter, so what gives?

We're seeing an exceptionally early start to spring-like weather, but we've yet to actually enter meteorological spring, which begins in earnest on March 1. 

According to the USA National Phenology Network, much of the Southeast is in the same boat and is seeing its earliest spring leaf out on record.

Temperatures are expected to climb near 80 degrees in Knoxville on Thursday, which is decisively not winter-like. But don't count winter out yet.

Anthony Cavallucci with the National Weather Service in Morristown said this nice, warm weather could lead to agricultural issues with strawberries and other plants vulnerable to freezes if and when winter returns.

"It does look like another freeze could be here as early as March 1. I gotta remind people, too, the Blizzard of '93 took place in the middle of March," Cavallucci said. "We're not out of the woods yet. I hope it stays warm because I want my flowers to survive just as much as everyone else does."

Cavallucci said spring's "false starts" and cold snaps are pretty common in East Tennessee. It's so common -- people came up with colorful names over the decades for the "little winters" we see leading up to late spring, such as "Redbud Winter" and "Britches Winter." It usually leads to friendly disagreements over which "winter" we're in.

Thankfully, not all plants are vulnerable to sudden cold snaps. They need to be resilient to survive "spring" in East Tennessee -- so long as the freezing cold doesn't stick around for a long time after they bloom. 

"I think that it's going to be okay, you know, spring tends to fluctuate when it happens for us. And it's not spring yet is what I would say," Cavallucci said. "The cold weather... it will come our way, it's just a matter of time."

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