LOS ANGELES – A series of winter storms bearing down on California Saturday was threatening parts of the state with flooding, and officials were posting mudflow warnings in areas recently affected by wildfires ahead of this weekend's rains.
Southern California will be hit especially hard by the storms, and officials were preparing for possible mudslides in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
"This is one big mother and it's going to have a lot of waves in it," National Weather Service spokesman Bill Hoffer said.
The storms could be the largest system the region has seen in the last decade, the agency said Saturday.
Northern California was expecting 5 inches of rain in places over the weekend, and officials in San Francisco were distributing sandbags to residents.
Southern California could see 2 to 4 inches along the coasts and valleys with triple that in the mountains.
The Central Valley will likely get 1 to 3 inches of rain by Monday with up to 15 inches of rain in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which could prompt flooding in streams and rivers, National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Dudley said Friday.
There already have been reports of flooding across all lanes of the southbound Interstate 5 south of the Antelope Valley Freeway interchange in Southern California, the California Highway Patrol said.
The patrol said Saturday that they'd already seen a fivefold increase in traffic accidents in Los Angeles County because of the weather. There were 264 accidents in comparison to 48 the same time last week.
The wet conditions were expected to last through Thursday morning with the weather drying up in time for the Christmas holidays.