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Fox News Weather Center

Train of storms to drench California, southwestern US as El Nino takes hold

A series of storms will bring welcome rainfall across California and other portions of the southwestern United States this week.

The track of these storms is fueled by El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

"The above-average temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, known as El Niño, tends to strengthen the storm track into the West Coast and occasionally California during the winter," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

While a parade of storms slammed into the northwestern United States during November and December, the southwestern U.S. will receive days of precipitation this week.

"The pattern in the West will remain quite active through the coming week," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde said.

While rainfall will be measured in inches from California and into parts of Arizona, these storms will not erase the drought across the Southwest.

Snow will fall across the mountains which will be beneficial for filling lakes and rivers during the spring and summer months. Snowfall will be measured in feet across the Sierra Nevada. Snow this week could cause travel problems near Donner Pass.

The first storm will move through late on Sunday into Tuesday morning. This storm will be the weakest across Southern California with only a light rainfall expected. The storm is more likely to bring heavier rain from Baja California, Mexico into Arizona and New Mexico.

Rain will fall along the California coast including San Francisco late on Sunday into Sunday night, while snow will fall across Flagstaff, Arizona, on Monday. The deserts of southern Arizona, including Phoenix, could receive up to 0.50 of an inch of rain during Monday into Tuesday.

The next few storms to roll ashore will be from Tuesday into Friday and will be stronger and bring heavier rainfall and higher-elevation snow across all of California and into Arizona and New Mexico.

"While most of the rain and snow will fall at moderate rates with minimal impact, there will be heavier rain later Tuesday into Tuesday night which could cause some flooding in some of the hills surrounding Los Angeles," Rinde said.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel, "The storms during the second half of the week have the potential to unload 1-3 feet of snow on the mountains and ski resorts of Southern California."

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In addition to wintry travel problems, enough rain will fall to raise the risk of sporadic urban flooding and a small number of mudslides, especially in burn scar areas from wildfires.

Motorists will need to allow extra time for their commutes much of this week, due to wet roads and slick conditions, especially along interstates 5, 8, 10, 15, 40 and 80.

Winds are not expected to be strong with these storms compared to those that rolled across the northwestern U.S. over the last couple months.

Use ​AccuWeather Minutecast® to track the rain or snow across your area. Mobile users can use their GPS location.

Rainfall totals through the week will be measured in inches from coastal California, including Crescent City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and in Phoenix. Flagstaff, Arizona, could have between 1 to 2 feet of snow by the end of the week.

"Moderate to heavy mountain snow will fall across central and northern Arizona, specifically around Flagstaff," Rinde said.

By next weekend into the following week, storms will return to the northwestern U.S.

"In the wake of the late-week storm, the pattern will again adjust with another precipitation lull in Southern California, with a return to some storminess in the Northwest," AccuWeather Long Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.

While rain will continue to reach portions of northern and central California, little if any rain will fall from Southern California into Arizona and New Mexico.